KG brings a bucket of charm to T-Wolves news conference

Listening to Kevin Garnett today was a bittersweet reminder of what Minnesota basketball fans have missed out on since he left town years ago for the bright lights of NBA-caliber basketball.

An older, more mature Garnett dished wisdom, humor, professionalism and plenty of charm at his news conference.

Jim Mone | Associated Press

It drew a crowd.

Beginning today’s news conference team broadcaster Alan Horton recited Garnett’s career highlights.

“Everyone knows this,” soon-to-be-95-year-old sportswriter Sid Hartman shouted.

“What is wrong with you?” Garnett responded, to a room full of laughter.

It was like old times.

“Coaches coach the game but when players play, it has everything to do with experience,” Garnett said. “When it comes to talent and putting the ball in the hole, that’s all about talent and a player IQ. (I’ll ) give myself to this team.”

Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett, right, talks with head coach Flip Saunders after his first practice upon his return to the former team that originally drafted him out of high school. Jim Mone | Associated Press

He said within five years he wants to get into management and ownership, fueling more speculation that he’ll end up owning the Minnesota team. He declined to say how much longer he thinks he can play.

“You think you want to be a coach someday?” Sid Hartman asked.

“A coach?” Garnett said incredulously. “Helllll, no!”

Garnett will play his first game back with the Timberwolves tomorrow night, and though many of his skills have eroded, it won’t matter much. The game will likely sell out and Target Center will have the most buzz for a Timberwolves game since the first time Ricky Rubio approached the scorer’s table to check into a game.

Why?

Jim Walsh, writing at the Southwest Journal, isn’t expecting a new age of Timberwolves basketball. But it doesn’t matter.

But the semi-shrug is warranted, as always: For sure we are a nation of homers, cheerleaders and life-passing-us-by observers who spend far too much time rooting for uniforms, watching too many games, staring at too many screens, living vicariously through and investing too much time in lives not of our own making. Sports worship and talk radio is insane, the opiate of the masses. But part of the fun of being a sports fan is that our attachments to our teams can be as real as any other relationship in our lives, and in the playing of and going to games we become part of each other’s stories.

He taps into a reality that sports fans are often pressed to apologize for — the intersection of professional sports with the lives that fans lead.

In this case, he says, it’s the day his then five-year-old son showed up to help paint the walls at the opening of the Malik Sealy Gym Of Dreams in Gethsemane Episcopal Church in downtown Minneapolis. Sealy had died in a crash with a drunk driver.

It was a time before smart phone photos, but the sight of this giant of a man moving in methodical up-and-down tandem with my little boy is one I’ll always cherish, not for its celebrity sighting but for its roots, the kind most often associated with farmers markets and local band showcases, not professional sports. I’d read about the gym’s opening in the paper that morning, and we ran down there because we, too, had loved Sealy and wanted to help. Garnett was somber and heartbroken that afternoon, his friend and mentor gone far too soon, and there was real purpose in his slow stroke as he lacquered on a coat of paint in honor of his fallen buddy.

I stood back and watched the two of them for a good five minutes as they worked, and that’s the kind of fan-player grist that sticks. Garnett may have won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics, but Minnesotans have myriad memories of him like mine, small but important interactions that have almost nothing to do with wins or losses on the court. He and this state have been through good and bad times together, and the bond that was created during his run here in the ’90s was born of all sorts of things he did, that we did together, that don’t, as they say, show up in the box score.

“He came back here because he feels this is like I home,” coach Flip Saunders said at today’s news conference.

Garnett said he doesn’t recognize the city anymore. “I felt lost; all my frontage roads and shortcuts are gone now,” he said. “My friends tried to take me out to Uptown. I didn’t recognize nothing.”

Jim Mone | Associated Press

By the way, if you’ve purchased tickets from the Timberwolves online for tomorrow night’s game, you may have encountered a problem that we discovered today affects some fans. The email from Ticketmaster that normally has a link to print the tickets to bring to Target Center doesn’t have such a link. There’s no way to print the tickets you bought.

Pal David Brauer figured out the work-around: You have to download the Ticketmaster mobile app and display the tickets on your smartphone. They don’t tell you that, however.