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Wednesday, August 9th, 2006 at 4:51 pm  |  48 responses

Q&A: Kevin Garnett

“One thing that I can’t stand is if I’m working hard and the organization upstairs isn’t working hard, it’s not fair. It’s not fair to me.”

by Lang Whitaker

Two weeks ago, I flew all the way out to Los Angeles just to talk about shoes. Of course, I wouldn’t go that far to talk about footwear unless the people I was talking with had something good to say. And these guys did.

Our friends at adidas were working on their campaign for the next season, and they invited SLAM to Santa Monica to check it out. While I was out there, I had the chance to sit down and interview five NBA All-Stars: Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Tracy McGrady, Chauncey Billups and Gilbert Arenas. That story will be the cover story of the forthcoming issue of KICKS, our annual shoe special, which will hit newsstands in a week or so. (And there will be a ton of content from that evening showing up here on SLAMonline in the next week or so — photos, videos, audio, interviews, etc.)

I’ve been covering the NBA long enough that I had either interviewed or spent time around most of those guys before. But somehow I’d never really spent much time around Kevin Garnett.

If you’ve never met KG, he’s pretty remarkable — loud, boisterous, funny, magnetic. The other guys at our photo shoot were all getting along fine, but when KG arrived and injected his personality into the proceedings the whole thing turned from just another photo shoot into a party. On the court, we often see KG as being only about his business, his face set, his smile hidden. Off the floor, at least on this day, KG was the student body president, the kid who can make friends with anyone.

For the last decade, KG’s career has been about promise and heartbreak. Each year Kevin goes out and posts amazing numbers, averaging at least 22 points and 13 rebounds per game for the last four seasons (and 20 and 11 over his eleven year career). He’s been remarkably durable, missing just 9 games since the 2000 campaign. But he’s also had to deal with intense failure, at least by his standards. As he makes clear below, the only reason he’s playing is because he wants to win a championship; yet in the real world, in eight trips to the playoffs, KG’s Timberwolves have escaped the first round just once, and that 2004 trip to the Western Conference Finals is the closest he’s ever been to the NBA Finals.

At the end of the night, KG and I sat down alone in the photo studio lounge to do an interview. I told him I was going to ask him mostly about his upcoming adidas signature shoes; after all, the story I was there for, and the magazine I was there for, is about shoes.

I’d promised KG it would only take a few minutes, and I only had 7 or 8 questions written in my notebook to ask him. The first question I asked him was an icebreaker, something fun that I’d also asked the other four guys. The other quartet each responded with answers no longer than two or three sentences.

KG’s answer was four paragraphs, totaling over 500 words long. And that was just on a fun question.

We settled in and had a wild, careening conversation, about everything from the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox to KG’s self-professed title of the best housekeeper in the NBA (“I clean better than some maids!”) to his new shoes. KG seemed to be enjoying himself and he just kept talking, so I just kept asking questions.

Eventually, we got around to basketball, and a lot of interesting things were said. Instead of trying to read into his answers and put any words in his mouth, let’s let KG speak for himself…

SLAM: Last thing, a couple of basketball things…you happy with the way things are going this summer for the T-Wolves?
KG: Um…need to make some more acqui…you know, some more transactions, man. I feel like getting Mike James was a start, but that’s not enough. We need some more solid players to contribute. We lost Marcus Banks. I don’t know if they’re going to re-sign J-Reed — he’s a hard worker who I learned to appreciate and gravitate to a little bit. (Note: The T-Wolves re-signed Justin Reed this week. — LW) And I think in order for us to get back in the race in the West, with the Mavericks, the Suns and Timmy [Duncan] now, the Spurs, we’re going to have to have a dominant team, we’re going to have to some guys that run, lay it down, know how to play the game, bring some more veterans in. But, we gotta make some more transactions man. I don’t think the summer’s over.

You got, what, two months?
Yeah, but, you gotta do something, or, you know, something’s gotta change.

What are you most proud of at this point in your career?
How consistent I’ve been able to be. Consistency is the big thing that I work on. I don’t like to fall off, I don’t like to look at things like…um, I pride myself off consistency. It’s very hard night-in night-out to get things done, and I find a way to do ‘em. I hope I don’t jinx myself or whatever, I’m just keeping it real. One thing I’m able to say is I’ve been healthy and I’ve been able to be consistent.

Speaking of consistency, how do you find the drive to keep going out there, man, even when the team’s not winning and…
Because I have expectations of myself. I do know if I don’t do or if I don’t bring a certain level, nine times out of ten our team is not going to move. Even though I have teammates around, the team obviously can do things without me, but it helps to have me there. A lot of things that I do bring to the table, I feel like it’s a plus. I don’t know, man…I’m motivated because of self, man. I feel like I’m the start and finish of a lot of things, and I don’t mind that pressure on me because I am an example and I’m willing to work toward something. But one thing that I can’t stand is if I’m working hard and the organization upstairs isn’t working hard, it’s not fair. It’s not fair to me. That’s not fair to a person who’s actually trying to get a championship. I feel like when it works is when both sides are just as active and as hungry.

Making stuff happen.
Absolutely.

How old are you now, 30?
Thirty, yeah, just turned 30 this year.

When you were 18, how do you think…Let’s say if you were 18 again looking forward at what you’ve accomplished in your career, have you exceeded your expectations? Have you met your expectations?
I’ve met my expectations. Only thing I haven’t met in this league is achieve a championship. That would sort of sew it all together. The reason I joined the Olympic team was to win a gold medal, so I had to donate the ’99 summer to the Olympics, for the trials. 2000, same thing. I won that. I wanted to make the All-Star Game my second year. I went out, I did that. I was able to build upon something, I did that. I’ve always said I wanted to be a part of the All-Star Game, so I’ve been able to maintain that, knock on wood. Individually, MVP, both All-Star and regular season. Without Shaq, them looking for me in Atlanta, I wouldn’t have been able to win the All-Star MVP. Without Sam [Cassell] and Spree, Ervin Johnson, Trenton Hassell, Freddy [Hoiberg], I don’t think I would’ve been in a position to win the MVP. Because every year, I think the year before that I had a similar type year, it went to Tim [Duncan]. I already knew winning was everything, but it really solidified that. Without those teammates, man, I couldn’t have done none of that. You know, achieving all those things…I have, I have no regrets, yo. I don’t regret too many things in life, I just wish that the Minnesota Timberwolves would work a little harder, or work as hard as I work in the summertime.

And if could change anything, I wish Stephon [Marbury] wouldn’t have left. That was Steph’s decision, that wasn’t me, but if I had any control over it…

Are you guys cool now?
We’ve always been cool, we were just growing, man, you know what I mean?

Because you’d hear little bits here and there, and…
Steph left, yo. I don’t speak on it a lot, but Steph made the decision for his career, and I’ve gotta honor that. That’s a man making a decision on that. That’s what it’s been. If there was one thing I wish I could have, I would want to see him push the ball, Steph and I going for it this long, seeing where we end up at. Because I know we’d have won at least a couple of rings, I know that, I know that.

So, two and half months left until the season starts, what’s next?
Finish working out, finish bringing something to the table, finish being in the lab. Training camp starts in October. Hopefully the Timberwolves will have done what they need to do to make us better.

Would you want to leave, if the T-Wolves don’t get better…
I got to…

…down the road somewhere?
…I got to. If you’re not working towards a championship, then why are we in this? I’m in it to win, man, I’m not in it to be coming back talking about next year. I’m 30. I’ve probably got 4 to 5 years, you know what I’m saying? My clock is ticking, man. I’m almost like a woman who’s trying to get pregnant. My years are limited, so my clock is definitely ticking.

Appreciate it.
That’s what’s up.

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  • A-Nasty

    To me it seems like yesterday that you put T-Mac (in the what were fresh new Orlando unis), Duncan and KG on the cover. Was that summer 03 or 04?

  • inkspot

    “i’m like a woman trying to get pregnant”…it’s gonna be a long time before we hear any athlete use this term in a similie. Nice to know that it was a hott interview – an athlete who didn’t go to college, yet speaks in paragraphs – how rare! It’d be nice to have the transcript of the pre-basketball part of that interview….

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    That was three years ago. Last year was T-Mac/D-Wade/Iverson, and two years ago it was Carmelo.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    To get the rest of that interview you’ve gotta buy the magazine! But I’ll also have some audio and stuff from it here on the site in a week or two.

  • Bernie in Phoenix

    Very cool interview. I like that you didn’t paraphrase anything he said and just laid it out there in it’s raw context.

  • Ben

    Ah Lang, what a scoop. This makes Woodward and Bernstein at their prime look like Jason Blair.

    I really wish KG realized that, other than Ricky D, there isn’t a single tradable piece on that team. McHale is in this purgatorial place. That said, he bought this pool, so he should be expected to make a splash.

  • http://thehype.wordpress.com Hype

    See, KG using that metaphor sounds and feels natural and real.. whereas Mike James comparing himself to a hooker… woah.

  • Nadav Mor

    KG’s gotta be smoking something pretty damn good to think he and Steph could have won 2 rings…But KG is def the man.

  • http://slamonline.com Marcel Mutoni

    KG, AI and ‘Sheed are probably the three most brutally honest guys in the league. I feel for Garnett, the Wolves aren’t in position to win anytime soon.

    He should’ve tried to force a trade by now. It’s almost too late for him.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    Ben, there wasn’t a lot of reporting on my part. I just hit record on the tape recorder and let it roll.

  • illydiva

    I know that every deserving player in the league can’t win the chip before his career ends, but KG (whose humility is so sexy) deserves it way more than some who have (Glenn Robinson). What more does a KG have to do? Is mgmt that inept? I feel this way about AI too, cause that’s my squad; but I can admit that AI has to share blame a little for the Sixers’ woes. Do you think these 2 could play together? The 2 of them and what (not who) would get them to the promised land?

  • Tallon

    Forget Steph leaving…

    KGs got Randy Foye coming in.

    Hes got a similar skill set, and the chance to be an even better player than Steph. He was a senior too, so his transition shouldnt take as long.

    If McHale makes some solid supporting role additions and drafts well over the next two years, the T Wolves could be looking like championship conteders within a couple years.

    Because we all know what KG’s gonna do, and I think Foye could turn into the piece they really need

  • Matt Wens

    what more can kg do? if dude did more he would fly the team plane….

    nice interview lang… awesome work

  • Eranga

    Sick interview Lang. You really dont get to head KG say too much these days. The NBA is very focused on the new breed of playesr like Wade, Lebron and co.

    I’m a HUGH Garnett fan, and would love to hear some audio on this. This was just a real real real good read.

    Big ups!

  • SG

    You did an awesome job of getting him to open up. This is the closest he’s come to publicly admitting he’s out if the team sucks. Great work but it just bums me out.

  • TKJC

    Thanks Lang, great work as usual.

    I really feel bad for KG. I just don’t see the Wolves making the playoff in the near future. Even if they do, there is about 0.0001 % chance that they will pass the 1st round. As great as KG is right now, he will be one of those cats who travel from team to team in search for a ring because he’s past his prime.

    By the way, KG was in Taiwan a while ago. In a press conference, fans got to ask KG questions and some guy who’s about 18-20 years ago asked in front of everyone if he could give KG a big hug. That didn’t happen and the fan was sent home without a brokeback mountain moment.

  • laf

    Man KGs Is still prob the best pf in this leauge even at 30 and i know he want to win a ship but he should take a damn paycut and may b minny can get the type of talent to win a ship right know you would posiibly have to give up a whole team

  • http://www.chalkbodyoutline.com Raul Concepcion

    As the ultimate T-Wolves fan and an even bigger KG fan lemme just say no one here in MN will blame ticket if he wants out. We would all shed a tear with KG if he won it all on another team.

    With that said, this years team is Chris Wilcox away from making the NBA Finals. James, Foye, Hassell, Davis, Ticket. Hell I even think Marco Jarich is good (as a versitle 6 man not starting PG) They need to get another big man and get it done. Or trade em all for AI and lets see what happens.

    P.S. My Garnett All Star 3s own the block!!
    (the kg lites are no joke either)

  • Joey

    Lang…

    Great job hitting the record button. The media covering the NBA doesn’t come close to the real content you and the Slam crew have access to. From Starbury to the 100th issue Jordan interview to this KG piece- Im glad you are able to use Slamonline, Slam, and Kicks to spread the wealth.

    On KG…

    He is the prime example of a Superstar. His goals motivate his actions and are the reasons for his achievements. Mixed with his modesty and humble approach to telling his bosses what to do without sounding like an overpaid brat- what more can you ask for a career 20 and 11 superstar? Someone PLEASE get him a CHIP!!

  • kdubb

    So should we start making our bids as to where KG’s gonna be when his contract runs out? I’m sorry, but there’s no way they’re winning the West, let alone the championship this year. I truly feel bad for KG as well. A little random, but I think Shareef Abdur Rahim would make a great Pippenesque second man on any team with a true superstar. I don’t know about with KG though.
    Lang you do have a gift. You know how to get the players to open up man. Even the famous story about Sheed in the locker room only talking to you. Great stuff once again.

  • kdubb

    Also, anyone see this MJ sighting? I don’t know where this is or anything, but it appears to be for real. Looks like nothings changed for MJ.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYlUQ3m_DdU

  • Wale

    I am the most passionate Laker fan of all time. Kobe and KG are destined to dominate this league as they fall off together from their peak. Why isn’t Mitch sending Kobe to MN to sit down and chat with KG? Mihm, Rad, Luke, and whatever picks and cash it takes to get KG, or Lamar and Mihm for KG. Both great trades for MN, depending on if they want to stay young or stay in the hunt now. It makes me sick when GMs hold great players hostage to fill the arena and don’t put a decent team around them. AI’s mgmt never stops tuning the team. Some good moves some bad, but always MOVES! McHale pulled the trigger once: Spree and Sam, and then got gun shy the next year. Jaric is a joke, and all the others amount to speculation. (Mike James is not nearly as good as the hype generated from a good year…his value has been inflated by a desperate media.)

    Notice I didn’t mention Bynum. Still too much potential. And everytime the Lakers deny trade offers for him, they up his value! Glad we didn’t get Artest, but if it takes Bynum to get Kobe more rings before his knees give out on him, I would even consider that, but I would prefer not to.

    Come to LA KG. We need you and you need us. Immediate ring. Do it now. Before training camp starts. If you play out your contract, it may be too late.

  • Joel O’s

    I guess after a while it’s just painful to watch KG’s teams get bumped out of the playoffs again and again, and honestly, let’s face it – barring a complete overhaul, does anyone really believe that the T-wolves are one piece away from contending? From being on the same level as the Suns or the Mavs or the Spurs? Or the Clips even, for that matter.

    More importantly, hasn’t KG’s teams *always* seemed “one piece away” from being a complete contender? They’ve never had the depth or the class to contend, not even when they had the Cassell-Spree backcourt, or when they had a decent KG-Wally-Brandon combo but absolutely nothing else to back them up.

    We’ve seen KG endure more than a decade of heartache in Minnesota, seen him grieve Malik Sealy’s death, witnessed him watch sadly as Starbury left to himself play on perennially mediocre teams – and through all that, we’ve seen KG bounce back from setbacks time and time again, upbeat as hell, the optimistic heart and soul of the team, that wide toothy grin on his face.

    I just hope he leaves and wins something; hope he does to his new team what Shaq did for Miami, and wins something because he deserves it.

  • hadoken

    I hope KG and Steph will find a way to reunite. Showbiz & KG, again? I’m down with that.

  • Sean (San Fran)

    KG – keeps it real – straight up and down. LOVE him – he’s my 2nd all time favorite NBA player next to Jordan.

  • http://cavaliers.mostvaluablenetwork.com Amar

    I can still dream about KG coming to Cleveland to play with LeBron and rule the NBA. Will it ever happen? What on God’s green earth would the TWolves want from the Cavs not named LeBron in a trade? Varejao, Gooden, Hughes, 2008 first rounder (or both picks), Z, Shannon Brown all in a combined package? In all honestly, they can have all that as long as they let us keep Shannon Brown. With the other stuff, if they want that in exchange for LBJ, it’s theirs. Yes, even Anderson Varejao.

  • http://cavaliers.mostvaluablenetwork.com Amar

    Raul Concepcion Says:
    August 9th, 2006 at 11:59 pm
    “As the ultimate T-Wolves fan and an even bigger KG fan lemme just say no one here in MN will blame ticket if he wants out. We would all shed a tear with KG if he won it all on another team.

    With that said, this years team is Chris Wilcox away from making the NBA Finals. James, Foye, Hassell, Davis, Ticket. Hell I even think Marco Jarich is good (as a versitle 6 man not starting PG) They need to get another big man and get it done. Or trade em all for AI and lets see what happens.”

    That is hillarious that you think that the Wolves are a Chris Wilcox away from making the finals. Seriously, anybody not drinking the Minnesota Kool Aid, just read that statement. With Chris Wilcox, the Wolves are going to beat the Mavs, Spurs, and Suns and coast to the Finals. Chris freaking Wilcox…CHRIS WILCOX, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD…is the difference between a 34-48 team and a Finals team. That is just ridiculous.

    The one time in World History that Minnesota was even good (2004), Sam Cassell and Spree signed a pact with the devil for a year. Sam I Am’s pact might still be going on. How on earth can KG be happy when he sees that RETARD McHale trade away Cassell for MARKO JARIC, and then sees Sammy lead the Clippers…THE CLIPPERS…to the SECOND ROUND of the playoffs???

    This isn’t even mentioning the Joe Smith debacle.

    To be honest, I’m surprised it took KG this long to say something. I was surprised when he re-upped not once but TWICE. The first time was understandable, since the TWolves were a very up-and-coming team and gave him 126 million reasons to stay.

    But if he didn’t sign that SECOND extension in ’03 and went unrestricted in summer of ’04 coming off an MVP season, the bidding for him would have gone bananas. Denver had cap room that summer…they would have given the veterans max to him instead of signing Kenyon Martin. Imagine KG and Melo together in Denver. Just imagine that. They could both help each other from not getting bounced out of the first round every year. Hell, I think Denver might have gone all the way last year with that combo considering how hot they got once Furious George got there.

    But no. He had to stay in Minnesota. Where he’ll never sniff the playoffs again if he decides to stay there. For his sake, I pray that he leaves that backwards organization going NOWHERE FAST!!!!!!

  • Luis

    lamar odom,luke walton,rad,1 round pick some cash for k.g. to be in L.A. with mamba24

  • Luis

    how about it k.g. a chance to be with phil just like mj and pippen

  • http://slamoline.com JK (Twin Cities)

    Biggest KG & T-Wolves fan. KG says it straight.
    Wolves need to do something now, like maybe fire Kevin McHale or KG will be gone & the Minny fans will have nothing to cheer about.
    No one will blame KG for leaving he deserves a title, nobody works harder than the Big Ticket.
    Kev best of luck stay healthy

  • SchW

    “Because I know we’d have won at least a couple of rings, I know that, I know that.”

    Tears man just tears. Just from the beggining when everything looked so bright the starbury done f***ed everything up(sorry for the expression). He does not even deserves the nickname starbury anymore. I love the man but how u dont see that u just in an hole from which u cant get out of(read: Knicks). ai

  • Jonster

    I agree with Marcel Mutoni that KG should have forced that trade much earlier and that it’s too late now for him. He’s goin’ to be one of those Hall-of-Famers without a ring. Sorry for that…

  • Wolvesfan

    Garnett is what sports is all about… or what it should be all about-loyalty, which can be kryptonite to most present-era athletes. He has somehow road the “Mchale Bonehead” roller coaster for 10+ years. He has never complained publicly about the lack of front office help. I wonder if KG can even make it through another 40-win season without going on a four city rampage. Obviously Kg’s window of opportunity is decreasing each year in terms of trade value and prime. If the Wolves can’t win it all this season, which is greatly unlikely given the roster and strength of the western conference, then its time to trade him next summer for young, good talent and a very high draft pick which would give the team a shot at drafting a great player in the 2007 draft, which is said to potentially be one of the deepest ones in memory. Hopefully Randy Foye can become the up-north version of Dwyane Wade and give the Wolves a new man to build around when Garnett changes seats. With Garnett being my all time facorite player,in any sport, it would be very sad to see him get traded. However, I would be 100% in favor of trading him to a team (Cavs, Lakers, even the wolf-rival Nuggets) that has a chance to win a championship. I would probably shed tears of joy the night he wins it all. KG, out of anybody in the history of proffesional sports, deserves to win that championship. When Garnett demands a trade next summer, there should be no one in the Target Center booing him when the PA announcer reads his name during the opposing teams (KG’s new team) starting lineups. If someone boos, I am counting on all of you to team up with me and we’ll throw that person out to the other side of First Avenue. Good Luck, Kevin.

    Good interview.

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  • jayp

    Showbiz & KG – they coulda been runnin the L right now *sigh*

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  • KG Number #1 Fan!

    I know it’s hard on KG that the Timberwolves are not improving.. But all I’n trying to say is it don’t have to end like this.. man, you gotta look at it this way.. Timberwolves has adopted you from the start of your career and if you ever leave what would the Timberwolves fans will feel? about us kids who always been on your back? I’m not trying to stop KG but I just want you to know how us fans will feel about you leaving home.. you can win without leaving the team, we have great faith on you KG the kid who changed the game :D

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    KG’s probably the best dude to interview in the L.

  • Lakers Fan

    KG to LA with KB = Championships…Kobe’s gonna get em no matter what, KG might as well be involved.

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  • http://www.turkforumuz.biz foreverkg

    this is a very old interview but kg is the best all-around player of recent times. he needs another two players like 2004 spree – cassell for a championship ring but I dont think t-wolves will make a remarkable transaction this year or anytime later :( we (t-wolves) will never get a position bad enough for a first-round pick thanks to the superhuman efforts of kg, either… to sum up, i dont think we will achieve a remarkable success :( and kg will be another pistol pete or charles barkley… he has always done his best, no one can talk negatively of him but it’s also a fact that he wont get a ring with recent minnesota :(

  • http://www.delinetciler.com/forum delinetciler

    Lang… Great job hitting the record button. The media covering the NBA doesn’t come close to the real content you and the Slam crew have access to. From Starbury to the 100th issue Jordan interview to this KG piece- Im glad you are able to use Slamonline, Slam, and Kicks to spread the wealth. On KG… He is the prime example of a Superstar. His goals motivate his actions and are the reasons

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  • mcnugget

    I think if marbury stayed and they continued to build around that they definitely wouldve ended up winning rings. They were winning 50 games out in a vicious west when both were 20, 21 years old. They wouldve been an alltime great inside/outside pg/pf combo.

  • mcnugget

    foreverkg, like pierce and allen?!?!? AWESOME, HUH!!!!!

  • ~Irishhh~

    heyyy i feel bad aboutt a few weeksss agooo i hope i didnt affend u guysss

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