11.04.2015

Flip on KG: The Next Michael Jordan?



November 2, 1996

It's early in the game and Stephon Marbury is in the lane, and there's about two feet of air between his feet and that spiffy new parquet floor at Target Center. His arm is cocked, ready to fire. A San Antonio Spur is waving a hand in his face, but Marbury is going to shoot anyway. No, wait. He's passing. A nanosecond later the ball is in the hands of Kevin Garnett, who is open, wide open. Garnett shoots. He scores.

It happened quickly, the pass, the score, but it was a squint into the future. Da Kid and Da New Kid have a chemistry, an extra sense of what the other one is doing on the floor, and marvelous things are expected of both.

The other day, Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said Garnett could be the next Michael Jordan. That's not putting too much pressure on a 20-year-old, but if it were to happen, Marbury would be Garnett's Scottie Pippen.

It appeared Garnett and Marbury were about to get something going, something special, during Friday night's season opener. But then ...

Marbury began to limp. He had gone airborne again, but this time, when he came down, something was wrong. "It felt like I hit the funny bone in my elbow," he said. Only the problem wasn't with his elbow. Not six minutes into the game, he collapsed and grabbed his right ankle.

Marbury had hurt his ankle before, but never like this. There never had been this much pain.

"I was in a panic," he said. "I thought it was broken."

Paramedics were on standby. Not for Marbury, though. The paramedics were ready to jump into action in case Wolves vice president Kevin McHale clutched his chest or Saunders had an anxiety attack.

The Wolves' two-man dream team was down to one, but nobody knew for how long, and you better believe Marbury wasn't the only one thinking the worst.

"I said, 'This is typical. We're snakebit,"' Saunders said.

The Wolves have been snakebit most of their existence, whether it was getting robbed in the lottery or getting stuck with Christian Laettner and J.R. Rider. But maybe all the bad has been wrung out of this franchise. The team doctor said Marbury's ankle wasn't broken. Just sprained.

It was scary for a while, though. Eerie, too, if you happened to look at Page 46 in the Timberwolves' program. There's an advertisement for the shoe Marbury endorses, and it's one of those ads with an attitude. There's a big picture of Marbury with the caption, "Breaking Ankles with Stephon Marbury." The shoe company also gave fans attending Friday night's game T-shirts with the caption.

The company may want to go with another slogan, perhaps one a little more cheery, such as, "Staying In One Piece with Stephon Marbury."

"I don't think (the ad) jinxed me at all," Marbury said.

He might have felt differently if the ankle was broken.

When told his ankle was OK, Marbury had it taped up tight and tried playing on it in the second half. But he didn't have that burst, that explosion that tantalizes McHale and Saunders so.

"I just wasn't comfortable," Marbury said. "I didn't want to be out there at 50 percent. I wanted to be 100 percent.

"But I'm just happy we won."

Oh, yes. The Wolves did win, beating the watered-down Spurs 82-78. The Spurs didn't have superstar David Robinson, who has a sore back. But it all balanced out because the Wolves didn't have Marbury, their other superstar in the making.

They will have him Sunday, though, when they play the Lakers in Los Angeles.

"I'll play," Marbury said. "My leg could be killing me, but I'm going to play."

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