KG's Rookie Season
October 7, 1995
Kevin Garnett was so anxious about his first day of training camp that he forgot to eat his Wheaties, or whatever he normally chows down for breakfast. The 19-year-old rookie was regretting the missed meal after his frustrating debut with the Timberwolves on Friday. His performance in the Wolves' first practice of training camp prompted teammates, coaches and management to give him pep talks to help him maintain his confidence.
``He was getting down on himself in some of the shooting drills, and you could tell he was upset and just throwing the ball up there,'' guard Isaiah Rider said. ``He's taking a lot in, but I told him he needs to relax and let it flow.'' ``I knew camp was going to be hard, but I should have eaten something this morning,'' Garnett said. ``You need energy to go through this.''
The former high school phenom said he didn't settle down until about an hour into the morning workout on the first day of training camp. Before that, shots he routinely makes weren't falling and certain drills occasionally made him look overmatched. Shortly after the Wolves concluded their first practice, vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale, player personnel director Rob Babcock, assistant coach Mike Schuler and general manager Flip Saunders huddled with the youngster to reassure him. ``All of a sudden, he's guarding guys like Doug West, Isaiah and some pretty good former college and CBA players,'' coach Bill Blair said. ``There are no more high school kids on the floor. What he doesn't understand right now is the level of jump he has made.''
But no one was ready to say Garnett should have gone to college. If Garnett had no talent or potential, numerous teams wouldn't have been tripping over themselves trying to land him in the draft. The Wolves saw Friday what they expected - that Garnett, despite his skill level, will have a major adjustment period. Garnett got his biggest confidence boost from Rider, who has had his share of tough times in Minnesota. Entering his third year in the league and with the Wolves, Rider showed uncharacteristic leadership Friday, along with several other players, to keep Garnett from being too hard on himself.
``We're not going to baby him, but we don't want to be easy on him, either,'' Rider said. ``I told him this is just the beginning. There's a long way to go.'' At least Garnett didn't suffer any rookie hazing. Second-round pick Jerome Allen, trying to make the team as a backup point guard, had a jump shot rejected by Sam Mitchell and then had to hear about it. Mitchell immediately pointed his finger near Allen's face and did some trash talking as he ran downcourt.
Garnett's NBA welcome was a little less embarrassing. ``When I asked questions, nobody was snobbish with their answers,'' Garnett said. ``Everybody was pretty helpful. The players were telling me they went through the same thing their first time out. ``I was still mad at myself because I know I can do better than that. Some of the drills we were doing I knew about in high school. I'm not the type of guy to give up. The worst thing you can do is, when you're messing up, to quit.'' ``How long we work and how hard we work is totally new to him,'' Blair said. ``But he'll get the hang of that. The main thing for him is to ask when he doesn't understand something.'' Blair fashions himself as a teacher, and now he is getting his chance to really be one.