MINNEAPOLIS - Only two players in NBA history have made it to season No. 21 in their careers. Kevin Garnett is about to become the third.
Garnett agreed to terms on a two-year deal to return to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been announced.
Garnett spent his first 12 seasons in Minnesota before being traded to Boston in 2007. He won a championship and played in another NBA Finals with the Celtics before moving on to Brooklyn.
The Timberwolves acquired him in a February trade that sent Thaddeus Young to the Nets, and the franchise icon was given a thundering welcome by the adoring home crowd upon his return. But Garnett only played five games for the Wolves after the trade, sitting out with knee problems as Minnesota sank to the bottom of the league.
His return for at least another season was widely expected, with coach and president Flip Saunders saying that Garnett chose to rest much of the end of last season to preserve his 39-year-old legs for next season. Terms of the deal were not immediately known, but Garnett was expected to take a healthy pay cut from the $12 million he made last season.
Garnett's statistical impact has been in decline for several years as he's morphed from an MVP-winning force of nature into more of a supporting role predicated on being the fulcrum of his team's defence. But the Timberwolves believe that he still has enough left in the tank to contribute about 20 minutes a game while serving as a much-needed mentor to a roster teeming with young talent, including 20-year-olds Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine and 19-year-olds Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones.
"He means the most," forward Shabazz Muhammad said. "Everything he would say, we would just look up to. We had a tough year last year. ... Before we had our meetings he would talk to us and tell us we're a young team and have to keep fighting. He just gives us a positive energy we need every day."
Garnett will join big men Robert Parish and Kevin Willis as the only players in league history to play 21 seasons. No player has made it 22 years.
The proud veteran said last year that he was buoyed by his return to Minnesota and the youthful energy on the roster. He fully admitted to not being able to carry a team physically like he once did, but he pledged to be a role model for those who were interested in soaking up his experience.
"We just look up to him and can't believe we're on the floor with him," Muhammad said. "He's a great leader. We all follow what he does. How hard he works on the court is something we want to take to our games."
When Garnett first returned to Minnesota, he also spoke of a desire to one day being involved in owning the Timberwolves. This last contract as a player figures to also pave the way to transition to management when he is done playing.
Garnett has made more than $320 million in NBA salaries alone, which doesn't factor in any endorsement contracts he has had over the years.
Notes: The team's two first-round draft picks signed contracts ahead of the team's trip to Las Vegas for summer league at the end of the week. Towns was the No. 1 overall pick out of Kentucky and Jones, a Duke point guard from the Minneapolis suburb of Apple Valley, was taken 24th overall by Cleveland and acquired in a trade.