Kevin Garnett is going to be inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2020. The basketball world is thrilled with the news and fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves are happy that a player from the hometown team will be in the Hall-of-Fame. This is big news for Wolves fans and Garnett has been voicing his loyalty to his fans in Minnesota.
There is one issue looming large with the fans and to a lesser degree, the franchise. The question of why the greatest Timberwolves player ever has yet to have his jersey retired is looming over the team.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is the reason Garnett’s number has not been officially retired by Minnesota.
After the Hall-of-Fame announcement was made, Garnett explained why his number has not been retired…
"“Glen knows where I’m at. I’m not entertaining it. First of all, it’s not genuine. Two, he’s getting pressure from a lot of fans and, I guess, the community there,” Garnett told The Athletic."
Garnett is upset with how things changed after Flip Saunders died. Saunders, the longtime Timberwolves coach and General Manager, was responsible for trading for Garnett and bringing him back to Minnesota in 2015 and Garnett stated that he “doesn’t do business with snakes”.
Nobody can deny that Taylor is a successful businessman, however, as the owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves, he has been terrible. He was involved in what is still considered to be the biggest violation of league rules in NBA history when he was caught attempting to circumvent the league’s salary cap.
Let’s look at Taylor’s history since he bought the team.
Taylor bought the team in 1994 after Bob Arum of Top Rank Boxing was blocked from buying the team by then-commissioner David Stern. The first thing Taylor did was hire Kevin McHale to be the team president and he brought in Flip Saunders as GM. It didn’t take long for McHale to fire coach Bill Blair and replace him with Saunders. In 1995 while scouting, both McHale and Saunders were amazed at what they saw while working out Garnett. They selected him with the 5th overall pick in the NBA Draft that year.
Joe Smith was the first player selected in that same draft by the Golden State Warriors. In 1999, Smith signed as a free agent with the Timberwolves and it was later discovered that he had signed a series of illegal contracts. The contracts circumvented the league salary cap so the team could sign him for less than his market value and pay him only $1.75 million. Taylor played a big part in the scandal and the punishment handed down by Stern was severe. The team had their first-round draft picks taken away for the next five years. The team was fined $3.5 million and McHale accepted a 9-month leave of absence. The punishment for Taylor’s role in the mess was a one-year suspension. Stern took pity on the team and later returned their 2003 first-round pick, the 26th overall. Taylor cost the team four first-round draft picks, which undoubtedly cost the franchise possible playoff runs.
In 2005, McHale fired Saunders. Two years later, Garnett was traded to the Boston Celtics. After that, Taylor fired McHale and handed the controls over to David Kahn, who is widely considered the worst Timberwolves team executive ever, even over McHale himself.
Kahn hired Kurt Rambis to coach the team but fired him after winning only 32 games in two seasons. Kahn is most notably remembered for drafting three point guards in the first round of the 2009 NBA draft. The Wolves had the fifth and sixth overall picks but passed on the chance to draft future NBA league MVP, Stephen Curry, who went seventh.
In 2009, Taylor signed Kahn to a five-year contract with the first three guaranteed and the remaining two years being one-year team options. After three years, Taylor exercised the 4th year option and said at the time that he “was satisfied” with the job Kahn had done to that point. In 2013, Flip Saunders was brought back to the team as president and the David Kahn fiasco Taylor had allowed was over.
Saunders traded All-Star Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins, the first overall player selected in the 2014 NBA draft. Saunders was high on Wiggins and that loyalty extended to Taylor. After Saunders’ death, assistant coach Sam Mitchell took over as head coach for the 2015-16 season. Immediately after the season ended, Taylor fired Mitchell and replaced him with Tom Thibodeau, who was also given the title of President of Basketball Operations.
Hypothetically, Taylor made Thibodeau do his job while holding both of his arms behind his back. Andrew Wiggins was up for a contract extension and Taylor directed Thibodeau to offer a max-contract. The contract was not deserved and Taylor was criticized after he publicly said he wanted to talk to Wiggins in-person to get his word that he would put forth the effort to work hard and improve as a player. Further evidence that Taylor undermined Thibodeau’s authority with player management, came from Derrick Rose.
In Rose’s book, “I’ll Show You”, he mentions a conversation with Thibodeau:
"“With Minnesota, Thibs was honest. Even when he didn’t play me when I first got there, he was just telling me the politics of it. ‘They have certain people here, they feel like they need to play certain people.”"
On the night of the 2017 NBA draft, Thibodeau pulled off a big trade that reunited him with All-Star small forward Jimmy Butler. Thibodeau coached Butler when he was with the Chicago Bulls. The move instantly made the Timberwolves a playoff-caliber team as they snapped a 14-year playoff drought as when they claimed the 8th seed in the 2017-18 NBA playoffs.
Immediately after the Timberwolves lost their first-round matchup to the Houston Rockets, Butler asked Thibodeau to trade him. Thibodeau didn’t take the request seriously and by the time training camp was set to get underway before the start of the 2018-19 season, Butler made a public spectacle of the situation.
Thibodeau was told by Taylor to trade Butler when he received a fair offer. The Houston Rockets offered four first-round draft picks for Butler and Thibodeau rejected the deal. Soon after, a deal had been reached with the Miami Heat but talks broke down at the last minute. Heat President Pat Riley indicated that Thibodeau tried to add to the deal after they had previously agreed to terms of the trade.
At the annual NBA Board of Governors meeting, it was reported that Taylor announced to the other owners that they should go directly to him with any Butler trade offers. Taylor’s actions undermined Thibodeau and his authority. A month into the season, Butler was traded to Philadelphia and two months later, Taylor fired Thibodeau.
It was Taylor’s handling of the Butler situation that ended up giving the Timberwolves an embarrassing black eye around the league and highlighted just how poorly Taylor manages his franchise.
Taylor has shown that he has not made good choices as the owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves. It is unclear how an owner of an NBA franchise went from being suspended one year for signing a player to illegal contracts to serving two terms as Chairman of the NBA Board of Governors.
From what is known to the public, Garnett’s claim that Taylor is a “snake” is accurate, and there is no way around it.
Garnett said he is loyal to the Minnesota fans and it is obvious that the fans want to see his jersey number retired. Hopefully, Garnett will come around to see that his issues are with Taylor and not the fans. Garnett’s refusal to deal with Taylor is really hurting the fans.
Most fans agree with Garnett’s claim that Taylor is a snake but, in this case, he needs to think of what is more important. Denying the fans his number in the rafters for an owner they simply cannot control is a big displacement of anger.
Should Garnett stand firm with his choice of not letting the team retire his number, then the team should retire it without his blessing. Garnett is refusing his fans the honor of retiring his number over a personal issue he has with the team owner. In other words, Garnett is mad at the owner of the team so he takes his frustrations out on his fans. The Timberwolves need to properly recognize his contributions to the team by retiring his number.
The team can always hold an official ceremony with Garnett taking part later on. If they don’t, the Timberwolves will look very foolish with Garnett, the team record holder in most statistical categories in the Hall of Fame yet, the team has not honored him by retiring his jersey number.
After all, the Timberwolves own and control the jersey number. Glen Taylor has given the fans many reasons to not like him with all of the mistakes he has made which hurt the team. Taylor can do what Garnett wants and further upset the fans or he can do what is right by the fans and retire Garnett’s number. Garnett is upset with Taylor already so Taylor doesn’t have a lot to lose by doing it.