Saunders: Rookie Garnett Best Player in the Locker Room (despite player jealousies)

February 19, 1996
It was no surprise that Christian Laettner complained after another embarrassing loss by the Minnesota Timberwolves. What was surprising was that popular rookie Kevin Garnett was among Laettner's targets.

"You've got to have the rookies and young kids shut up, and you've got to have the coaches and the veterans take care of the team," Laettner said after Sunday's loss to the Washington Bullets. "We've got some big britches on this team. We've got a lot of people who know everything." 

Garnett, who has moved into the starting lineup one year after playing in high school, had left the locker room and was unavailable for comment. Coach Flip Saunders acknowledged some of his players might be jealous of Garnett, who has become a fan favorite at Target Center.

"The sad thing is they can say whatever they want, but that kid knows how to play basketball and he's better than anyone in that locker room," Saunders said.

Laettner and Garnett had a brief exchange during Sunday's loss, Minnesota's third straight. After a timeout, Laettner said to Garnett: "How come when you say something I have to listen? But when I say something, you've got an answer?"

Garnett turned away.

Laettner has struggled the past two games, getting just four shots in Friday's loss to Chicago and missing 11 of his 15 shots Sunday. The Wolves played at Detroit on Monday night.

"Christian is like everybody right now," Saunders said. "Everyone's frustrated. Him going off a little bit, I'm sure he blames his performance a bit on me and the staff, that we're not getting him the basketball where he wants the ball at."

Among Laettner's other complaints was that the Wolves don't play well as a team.

"We've got a lot of complaining going on out there, a lot of finger-pointing," he said. "... We don't pick each other up. We don't pull for each other. There are a lot of skeptics on the team. Just bad stuff."

Laettner admitted he is part of the problem.

"I would say a lot of it is my fault," he said. "Because I can see that a lot of the people are blaming me. Players. I don't feel they're wrong. It is my fault."

The NBA trading deadline is Thursday, and Saunders said he and vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale want to deal.

"I'm sure (McHale) has got the cellular working," Saunders said.

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