MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Kevin Garnett got on Boston's team plane Thursday afternoon with the rest of the Celtics, headed for his old home and what will surely be a warm reception from Timberwolves fans.
They should have their chance to stand and cheer him.
Watching him play is another matter.
Garnett has not taken the court in two weeks because of a strained abdominal muscle, and it will be a surprise if the 11-time All-Star forward suits up on Friday night for his first game in Minnesota since the seven-for-one trade that sent him to Boston in July.
He said he would like to play.
``But this picture's just bigger than one or two days or what's around the corner,'' he said.
Boston is an NBA-best 37-9, obviously more concerned about Garnett's condition in April, May and June than his availability before the All-Star break. Even the Timberwolves recognized that, though they wished he would play, too.
ore important than coming here and playing us,'' said Al Jefferson, who came to Minnesota as the centerpiece of the deal. ``If he's not healthy, that's a smart decision that he's making.''
The Wolves don't plan an elaborate ceremony. They're focusing on winning the game and getting people interested again in their fledgling team, which recently moved ahead of the Miami Heat and no longer has the league's worst record.
``I'd be the first to say that whenever Kevin Garnett retires, or announces he's going to retire, we will be first in line to hold a ceremony to celebrate all of his accomplishments as a Timberwolves player,'' chief marketing officer Ted Johnson said.
The Wolves have, however, asked the NBA for extra time during player introductions before the nationally televised game to announce Garnett to the crowd even if he's on the inactive list.
When he's hurt, Garnett is too competitive to sit still and prefers to spend the time during games in the trainer's room. Rivers said he would ask Garnett to be present before the game.
``Sitting on the bench and knowing there are probably 10 steps to the scorer's table to check in wouldn't probably be the best thing for the NBA. Especially with me,'' Garnett said. He also joked that he doesn't ``wear a sports jacket.''
a seat for K.G.'s return.
Anticipating the buzz kill of a game without Garnett, the Wolves announced late Thursday afternoon that fans in attendance Friday will be given a voucher for a free ticket to one of three other games this month.
Small consolation. Kerry Rauschendorfer, of Minneapolis, is one fan who bought a 10-game ticket package so he could be at Target Center to see Garnett again.
``He gave a lot to Minnesota both on and off the court, and I believe that part of his heart is here,'' Rauschendorfer said.
Even owner Glen Taylor acknowledged the letdown.
``I was looking forward to it also,'' Taylor said.
So the show must go on, and the Wolves are eager to avenge their 87-86 loss at Boston on Jan. 25, when Garnett got hurt. They blew a five-point lead with 1:51 left.
``It took me like five or six days to get over that game,'' said Jefferson, who is averaging 28.8 points and 15.6 rebounds over the past five games. ``Most definitely we proved something. They know they weren't supposed to win that game. That's why they were celebrating and showing off. They thought they was going to blow us out.''
Garnett and Jefferson got technical fouls for their trash talk, an amusing exchange that included Garnett shouting ``11 years! 11 years!'' in reference to his All-Star streak and Jefferson countering with this: ``I told him we both have one thing in common - no championships. He didn't like that too much.''
It's not just Jefferson who's eager to impress his former Celtics teammates and coaches, of course.
``You want to go out there and beat them. That's the natural instinct you have as a competitor,'' said point guard Sebastian Telfair, another one of the players who came in the trade.
Timberwolves vice president Kevin McHale tried to shrug off the significance of Garnett's return.
``It's a transient business by nature,'' McHale said. ``You get kind of used to it, I guess.''
After a bit of prodding, however, McHale said he'd be happy to see Garnett again.
``I'm not going to go down there and invade their locker room,'' he said. ``I'd imagine if I run into him, I'd like to see him. I love Kevin.''
---
AP Sports Writers Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis and Jimmy Golen in Boston contributed to this report.
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