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The NBA once warned Kevin Garnett about his plan to recruit a former Minnesota Timberwolves teammate

Losing a player like KG was the last thing the T-Wolves wanted to happen.
Kevin Garnett with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2016

Kevin Garnett

As a cornerstone of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Garnett fully understood what his job was as the leader of the pack. For KG, if there was a need to bring in specific players to win games, then it needed to be done. That’s exactly what he tried to do in 2001 when he publicly announced he would lead a movement to bring Joe Smith back to Minnie, something the NBA wasn’t happy about.

KG wanted Joe back

It all started when Smith, who was a multi-million dollar player in 1998, inked drastically small contracts with Minnesota to make himself eligible for the Bird Rights after three consecutive deals. It’s illegal but it was the only way that the Timberwolves could make space for additional stars. The front office was slapped with fines and penalties after all under-the-table deals for Smith unraveled.

The NBA learned about this in 2000 and voided Smith’s current and previous deals with the Timberwolves. In addition to that, Minnesota was fined $3.5 million and forfeited their first-round draft picks for the next five years. Smith then became a free agent and signed with the Detroit Pistons that summer.

While some fans thought Smith did not really have that much of an impact for Minnesota, Garnett begged to disagree. For KG, the absence of “The Beast” was felt throughout the season and he wanted him back so bad that after Minnie took on the Pistons in a March 2001 game, KG said via AP News:

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“Everybody wants him back. We’ll start a campaign. I’ll be the leader.”

That’s a no-go, KG

Garnett’s comment, for obvious reasons, did not sit well with then-NBA senior vice president Stu Jackson. To prevent further controversy, Jackson called KG and told him to “refrain from such comments about Smith.”

Aware of what could be at stake, then-Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders adhered to these instructions as losing a player like KG over such controversy was the last thing they all wanted to happen.

“The only time this has ever been brought up is when we play Detroit,″ Saunders said. “I know as far as our staff is concerned, we stay away from that.”

Fortunately, things didn’t escalate as Garnett made no additional efforts to move forward with his plan. But in the end, KG’s idea prevailed as Smith returned to Minnesota the following season. Only this time, Smith and the Timberwolves organization didn’t have any illegal or shady agreements injected in the deal.

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