Zulgad: KG's potential ownership in Wolves could be just what franchise needs

Karl-Anthony Towns, Kevin Garnett
FILE – In this Nov. 27, 2015, file photo, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett, right, rubs the head of teammate Karl-Anthony Towns as they celebrate during the closing moments of the Timberwolves’ 101-91 win over the Sacramento Kings in an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif. The Timberwolves held their annual media day on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, one day before they are set to open training camp. Players were preparing for life without franchise icon Garnett, who announced his retirement on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the sports dollar in Minneapolis-St. Paul was stretched thin. The Vikings always will be king, and don’t have concerns about filling U.S. Bank Stadium, but other than that you have the Twins, Wild, Timberwolves, Lynx, United and University of Minnesota sports competing to draw fans.

Among the professional teams, the frequent loser in this group has been the Wolves. There is good reason for this. Glen Taylor, who has owned the Wolves since 1994, saw the franchise make eight consecutive playoff appearances from 1996 through 2004 but only one in the 16 seasons since. The Wolves’ 19-45 record in 2019-20 meant they weren’t in consideration to head to the NBA bubble for the conclusion of the season and their average of 15,066 fans in 32 games at Target Center placed them last in the league.

Getting fans and corporations to buy tickets coming out of the pandemic will be an even tougher challenge. That’s likely one reason a report surfaced Tuesday that Taylor is using the Raine Group to reach out to interested investors and that the sale of the Wolves could be completed within a month. Shortly after the story was broken by Sportico, there was an interesting Instagram post from the biggest star in Wolves history.

It remains to be seen whom Kevin Garnett has in his investment group and if they can get together the $1.2 billion that Taylor reportedly is seeking for the franchise. But there is one thing that is certain, if KG’s group wins the bid: Interest in the franchise would skyrocket.

The Wolves’ ineptitude has resulted in apathy from a fan base that is more than willing to fill Target Center if they have a competitive team to watch. The Twin Cities isn’t a bad basketball market, it’s just one that has the luxury of not having to support a bad team year after year because there are other choices.

Garnett began his Hall of Fame career as the fifth overall pick by the Wolves in the 1995 draft. He spent his first 12 seasons in Minnesota, winning the NBA MVP in 2004, and then returned to the Wolves in a 2015 trade that reunited him with Flip Saunders. Garnett’s departure from Minnesota the first time was followed by a falling out with Taylor and he only agreed to return because of his close relationship with Saunders. The belief was that Garnett agreed to return in part because he would be in line to get a piece of the franchise upon his retirement.

Saunders, however, passed away in October 2015 from complications associated with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Garnett’s career ended after he played 38 games with the Wolves in the 2015-16 season. His departure did not involve getting a part of the team and his already rocky relationship with Taylor grew worse.

It has been so bad that Garnett has declined opportunities to return to Target Center to have his No. 21 raised to the rafters. The Boston Celtics, meanwhile, will retire Garentt’s No. 5 next season. He won an NBA title in Boston but played only six seasons with the Celtics, compared to 14 with the Wolves. Garnett did attend a game at Target Center in November 2018 but that was at the request of Karl-Anthony Towns, who was Garnett’s teammate as a rookie in 2015-16.

When Jimmy Butler was trying to force his way out of Minnesota in 2018, Garnett took the opportunity to take a jab at Taylor on TNT. “I totally understand (Butler). I totally get it,” he said. “And he’s dealing with Glen, who doesn’t know (expletive) about basketball. He knows how to make money, but he don’t know anything about basketball. I wouldn’t say that he’s the best basketball mind.”

Garnett’s ill will toward Taylor — and by extension the Wolves — didn’t seem to lessen how Minnesota sports fans felt about him. One of the greatest nights in recent memory at Target Center, including the 2018 playoff berth against Houston, was Garnett’s first home game back with the Wolves in February 2015. Garnett scored only five points but it didn’t matter to the adoring crowd of 19,856 that packed Target Center.

Many of those fans almost certainly would welcome back Garnett again, even if he would be wearing a suit this time. Garnett’s potential stake in the Wolves would provide a breath of fresh air. It would certainly mean that the long overdue wait to retire his number would come to a quick end. Maybe, most importantly, it would generate interest in a team that has struggled to do that on any sort of consistent basis for the past 16 years. Garnett, for now, sounds like a guy who is willing to forgive Taylor.

New basketball boss Gersson Rosas has provided the roster with a makeover, acquiring D’Angelo Russell in February to pair with Towns. There is the potential that the KAT-Russell pairing will work out but that will take some time. Garnett’s presence at Target Center would be an immediate jolt.

Is there a guarantee that KG the owner would be as successful as KG the player? Absolutely not. But it certainly seems like it would be worth a shot.