When McHale drafted Garnett with the fifth overall pick, he was prepared to arrange college courses for Garnett, help him choose an accountant and advise him on a place to live. "We had a lot of stuff lined up, just in case," says McHale. "He hasn't needed any of it." Three weeks ago, when forward-center Christian Laettner unleashed a jealous tirade directed at Garnett (Laettner has since been traded to Atlanta), McHale was concerned about how Garnett would react. But as he was mulling over his strategy, Da Kid approached him and told him not to worry.
"I've taken care of everything," he told McHale. "First thing this morning, I walked up to number 32 [Laettner] and asked him if we had a problem. He didn't have anything to say, so it's over." It is that kind of maturity that has been missing in Minnesota. McHale has tagged Garnett as the franchise, yet he's acutely aware that under the terms of the league's collective bargaining agreement, Garnett can bolt from Minnesota after his three-year, $5.6 million contract is up.
McHale hoped Garnett would stick around the Twin Cities this summer to work on his game, but the rookie misses his family in his native South Carolina. "When this year is over, I'm out of here," Garnett says. So the Timberwolves will send coaches and trainers down south to work with him in the off-season. McHale has already identified Garnett's needs: a weight-training program, a sophisticated set of low-post drills and lots of work on shooting.
"Having said all that, what this kid has accomplished is amazing," declares McHale. "If you put him in a college situation right now, where it's not as physical and there's zone coverage, he'd be doing things that would have people in awe."
That is already happening in the NBA. During a 120-101 Wolves win on Feb. 21, Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich watched Garnett score 17 points and grab 12 rebounds, highlighted by a decisive four-minute stretch in the fourth quarter when he had nine consecutive points, four rebounds and two blocks. "This guy has as much energy as anyone I've ever seen," says Tomjanovich. "He attacks the boards like he's in a gym all by himself. The scary part is, he's only 25 percent of what he'll be."
Line of the Week
Suns forward A.C. Green, Feb. 26 versus the Jazz: 1 MIN, 0-1 FG, 0-0 FT, 0 points, 0 rebounds. One day earlier Knicks forward J.R. Reid had viciously elbowed Green in the mouth, knocking out two of his front teeth. Against Utah, Green, who was in excruciating pain, stayed on the court 68 seconds, extending his streak of consecutive games played to 785, which is tops in the NBA among active players and third alltime behind Randy Smith (906) and Johnny Kerr (844). At week's end Green's skein stood at 788. Not everyone admired Green's grittiness. Said Sonic and fellow Oregon State alumnus Gary Payton, who had played in 349 consecutive games through last Sunday, "If I break my back, I guess they can put me on a stretcher and let me stand there for a minute so I can keep my streak going too."
Around the Rim
Golden State will make re-signing potential free-agent guard Latrell Sprewell a top priority. To that end Sprewell was anointed team co-captain alongside veteran Chris Mull in as soon as his nemesis and predecessor, Tim Hardaway, was traded to the Heat....
Nuggets forward LaPhonso Ellis stunned coach Bernie Bickerstaff by publicly questioning his decision to keep Ellis out of the starting lineup in favor of Dale Ellis. When he made his statements LaPhonso had missed 113 of the team's previous 134 games with injuries. Bickerstaff held a closed-door meeting with his forward and explained that he was planning to give him his starting job back anyway but did not appreciate the public pressure. LaPhonso returned to the starting lineup last Thursday in a 137-120 win over the Mavericks and chipped in with 12 points and eight boards....
Dallas point guard Jason Kidd is on a pace to become the fifth player in NBA history to have 800 assists and 500 rebounds in a season. The other four: Magic Johnson (five times), Oscar Robertson (four), and Micheal Ray Richardson and Norm Van Lier (one each).