MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -Kevin Garnett never had a bigger fan when he played for Minnesota than Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. But it appears those days are over.
Taylor leveled some rare criticism at his former star on Tuesday, suggesting Garnett ``tanked it'' when he missed the last five games last year.
Taylor's remarks came after practice, as the Wolves' strong play down the stretch was being discussed. Taylor took exception to a local newspaper columnist who suggested it was time for the Wolves, who are 16-50, to start losing to improve their draft slot.
Taylor said the columnist ``said a little bit last year was that we sort of like tanked it. I don't think that. I don't like that so much. I don't like that.
``It was more like KG tanked it. I think the other guys still wanted to play.''
KG, of course, is Garnett, who missed the last five games of the season with a leg injury and watched his team lose its final seven games. Garnett was traded in the offseason to Boston.
The Celtics were in Houston for a game against the Rockets, and Garnett was not immediately available for comment. His agent, Andy Miller, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.
In his 12 seasons in Minnesota, Garnett's effort and determination endeared him to the state's basketball fans.
Last year wasn't the first time the Wolves have been accused of dumping games.
Two years ago, the team shut down Garnett for the final six games, which ended with center Mark Madsen hitting seven 3-pointers in a double-overtime loss to Memphis that ultimately ensured the Wolves would hold on to their lottery pick.
They traded a first-round to the Clippers in a deal for Marko Jaric, and needed to finish with a lottery pick in the top 10 to ensure they kept it. Minnesota lost four of its last five to ensure that happened.
The Wolves aren't the only team to come under scrutiny for tanking games in recent years. Memphis, which comes to the Target Center on Wednesday night, has received plenty of criticism for trading star Pau Gasol to the Lakers for a package of nondescript players, and Miami recently made the decision to bench Dwyane Wade for the rest of the season.
So far at least, the Timberwolves cannot be considered in that company this season They have won four of their last six games, and Taylor said it's more important for his team to build some positive feeling going into the offseason than to worry about ping-pong balls in the lottery.
``Why are we winning? We're winning for (the players), but the other thing is I think we're winning for the fans,'' Taylor said. ``I think we have to show the fans that, what I call it, there is a plan. That we're going to improve next year. And you can see where we were and this is where we're going and next year we're going to be a better team.''
With a young core including Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes and Randy Foye, there is some optimism that better days lie ahead.
Which is one reason why some fans wouldn't mind seeing the Wolves drop a few games to end up with the No. 1 pick and a possible shot at Kansas State star Michael Beasley.
The Wolves head into Wednesday night's game tied with Memphis and Seattle for the second-fewest wins in the league, five ahead of Miami.
Gomes, for one, prefers to try winning.
``We have to worry about the guys that are here now and who we're playing for now,'' he said. ``We're playing for the 13 guys that are on our roster, our coaching staff, and the fans here. We can't think about who might be coming in here next year, a trade, or all that stuff. That's out of our control.''
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