August 17, 1997
There are times when Kevin McHale wonders why he left the walleyes and other natural wonders of Minnesota to run the Timberwolves. Now is one of them.
His franchise player is taking a beating in the media for having the chutzpah to turn down $ 102 million. His owner is being accused of breaking confidentiality agreements. The agent says the franchise player won't play again in
Minnesota. Gee, whatever happened to basketball?
The Kevin Garnett greed-o-rama is an ongoing story and McHale doesn't like talking about it, dealing with it, or speculating about what will happen. He does want to make one thing clear: Garnett is a terrific kid who is being judged
"He's 21 years old," McHale said. "We see these athletes making all this money and we just assume that they have good business sense. This is his first negotiation and what was said, in my opinion, is not Kevin Garnett speaking."
According to agent Eric Fleisher, Garnett will not re-sign with Minnesota because T-Wolves owner Glen Taylor revealed what the team had offered to the wonderkid. McHale not only defended his boss ("since when is truth a breach of
confidentiality?") but also said Fleisher unnecessarily painted Garnett into a corner.
"If I were still a player, I would not want an agent saying those things about what I might do," McHale said. "I wouldn't be all that crazy to hear that."
And if Garnett does sign with Minnesota, Fleisher won't be the first agent to contradict himself. You know, he meant it when he said it. The Minnesota offer to Garnett was for an average of $ 16 million a year for six years. (Six
years is the maximum they can offer in this case because Garnett still has one year left on his original deal.) Fleisher had a higher number in mind. There was, according to McHale, no negotiation:
"We threw out a number. They threw out a number. They weren't the same number. I doubt we'll retract ours. We'll let things settle down a bit."
McHale has not had a chance to speak with Garnett. He doesn't begrudge the kid turning down the offer. What irks him is that Fleisher came back so strong when a simple "We're going to explore our opportunities in free agency next
summer" would have sufficed.
With Tom Gugliotta eligible for free agency next summer and Stephon Marbury the year after that, the prospect of restful offseasons is not likely for the future Hall of Famer (Class of 1998, if you're wondering). McHale has done a
wonderful job with Minnesota. He jettisoned the jerks and brought in his own people, including the coach. The consensus was that if he could keep the team intact, Minnesota would be a championship-caliber club in a couple of years.
Garnett clearly is the key. Does he really want to play in Chicago, where his best teammate would likely be Toni Kukoc? Or Phoenix, with Jason Kidd? The Minnesota situation is ideal for him, but who can say it will last? We keep
hearing Marbury wants to play in a bigger place.
And who's to say the man in charge will be around to watch it flourish or blow apart? Don't be surprised if McHale decides the executive life isn't for him anymore. When a player who has been in the league for two years rejects a
deal that averages more money in one year than he made in his career, how can you blame him?