Garnett earns 120 of 123 first-place votes
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Kid is all grown up, and he has an NBA MVP award to prove it.
Garnett's teammates attended a packed news conference at the Timberwolves' arena, and he praised them repeatedly.
"I wouldn't be nothing without those knuckleheads, believe me," Garnett said. "It's a team game, and I've always kept that perspective."
He has played at an MVP level for years, but this was a breakthrough season for the Wolves. They earned the top seeding in the Western Conference playoffs with a franchise-best 58-24 record, then ended a string of seven straight first-round exits from the postseason by beating the Denver Nuggets.
"This is best situation I could ever think of, or dream of," Garnett said.
Playing everywhere from center to point guard, the 7-footer averaged 24.2 points, a league-leading 13.9 rebounds and 5.0 assists this season -- and his playoff stats are even better.
Garnett joined Larry Bird as the only players to average 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for five consecutive years.
He received 1,219 points in voting by sports writers and broadcasters in each of the league's cities. San Antonio's Duncan was next with 716 points, and Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal finished third with 523. Peja Stojakovic and Kobe Bryant were next.
"He's definitely deserving of it," said O'Neal, like Garnett a high school standout in South Carolina. "He waited his turn. A lot of people thought he should've won it last year."
Garnett was taken by Minnesota with the fifth pick in the 1995 draft out of Chicago's Farragut Academy, where he spent his senior year. Bryant also went straight from high school to the pros the next season, and now dozens of teenagers skip college each year in hopes of making it in the NBA.
Nicknamed "The Kid," Garnett made the All-Star team in his second season, and his success helped fuel the wave of preps-to-pros players.
"When he came into the league nine years ago, the No. 1 thing he said to myself and Kevin McHale is he wanted to be the best player in the league," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said.
Saunders and McHale, the former Boston Celtics star who is Minnesota's general manger, recalled watching Garnett work out in a steamy Chicago gym shortly before the draft.
Before the Wolves' brass showed up, they were hoping one of the four teams picking ahead of them would grab Garnett -- allowing Joe Smith, Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse or Rasheed Wallace to drop to them.
They quickly changed their minds.
"We looked at each other and said, 'We better hope he's there at No. 5,"' Saunders said.
Garnett spoke glowingly of McHale's help.
"I told him that I was willing to work and do whatever I had to do to get there," Garnett said. "There wasn't a day when I wasn't in there asking 100 questions and he was giving 100 answers. He worked with me night in and night out."
McHale said: "He reminds me of how basketball should be played, with passion, hard work and discipline."
The Timberwolves host the Sacramento Kings in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series Tuesday night, and commissioner David Stern will be there to present Garnett with his trophy.
It's the first league MVP award for a Minnesota player in the NBA, NFL, NHL or major leagues since Rod Carew won the 1977 American League honor with the Twins.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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