Excluding the 1998-99 season when he played just 47 games, Garnett played at least 3,000 minutes in seven straight season with the Timberwolves, topping out at 3,321 in 2002-03.
Asked how much of the workload was Garnett refusing to come off the court, and how much of it was Saunders riding his superstar (the Wolves had four 50-win seasons in Saunders’ tenure), Saunders said, “It’s a combination of both.”
“It’s like pulling teeth trying to get him off the floor,” Saunders said. “It’s like pulling teeth trying to pull him off the practice court. Everyone talks about the amount of minutes that you play on the court but as hard as he played in games, he played that hard in practice. He probably wish he would have given up when I told him to sit down and he wouldn’t sit, he probably wishes he would have sat now in the latter part of his career. But that’s just kind of who he is. He loves to play the game, he loves to compete. Sometimes he’s right on that border as far as how much he talks to opponents and everything else, but he’s an unbelievable competitor.”
In the past three seasons, Garnett has played no more than the 2,328 he logged in his first year in Boston. Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been able to hold Garnett to 30.0 minutes a night this season. But it wasn’t easy.
“He was pretty good [about it],” Rivers said. “He’s never liked it. He didn’t like it last year when we cut his minutes down and he liked it less this year because they were even lower minutes. But he deals with it. He understands. He almost has a self talk every time he comes out. You can almost see him gather himself. But it was the right thing to do because we need him in the playoffs. Now, he won’t have that concern once the playoffs start.”
Asked if the 40,000-minute mark was a badge of honor, Rivers said it’s probably one most players would bypass.
“I guess it’s good for the player, because it means he’s at 40,000,” Rivers said. “But fastest to it would not be the way you want to get to it. That means you’re probably playing too many minutes.
He joked, “Blame Flip!”