MINNEAPOLIS - It was a little more than seven months ago that Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett sat behind a table in the Target Center Skyway concourse, wearing a black suit and grinning from ear to ear between his diamond-studded earrings while announcing his new $100 million contract extension.
On Monday, Garnett sat in the same concourse, this time in a beige suit and a pair of adidas sneakers while accepting the NBA's Most Valuable Player trophy.
"I have to thank my teammates," Garnett said in front of teammates and close friends. "Although it's an individual award, it wouldn't be anything without those knuckleheads. It's a team game, and I've always kept that perspective."
Garnett, who last season finished second in MVP voting to San Antonio's Tim Duncan, won in a landslide. He picked up 120 of a possible 123 first-place votes from sportswriters and broadcasters in the United States and Canada. Duncan finished a distant second, and Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal was third.
"He's been such a consistent player this season," ESPN analyst Greg Anthony said. "He plays on both ends of the court. That's the one thing I respect most about him: He doesn't take a night off. He deserves so much credit for that because not a lot of players do that."
Garnett, scheduled to receive a bonus for winning the award, averaged a career high in points (24.2) and rebounds (13.9). He finished with 1,987 points and 1,139 rebounds, becoming just the fifth player in league history to lead the league in both categories. He had 71 double-doubles, which includes eight games of at least 20 rebounds.
For the first time in his career, Garnett didn't have to shoulder the load. The additions of Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell in the offseason made things easier. Garnett no longer faces double- and triple-teams every time he touches the ball in the post, and he doesn't have to take every big shot.
The trio earned a nickname, "The Big Three," halfway through a season in which the Wolves won their first Midwest Division title and earned home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs.
Minnesota plays Sacramento in Game 1 of the second round tonight at the Target Center.
"The additions that (vice president of operations) Kevin (McHale) and (owner) Glen (Taylor) made to the team this year were probably some of the most concrete additions since I've been here," Garnett said. "Sam and Spree are like a breath of fresh air when it comes to basketball. Those two guys put the fun back in basketball for me. I've learned a lot from those two. It's great to call them teammates. Behind closed doors, I've always given appreciation to them."
"There's not any glaring weaknesses in his game," Wolves assistant coach Jerry Sichting said. "He can fine-tune every aspect of his game a little bit. The last couple of years, he's just entered his peak. He's 27, so he has six or seven great years left."
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