Abdominal strain keeps Garnett on bench in return to Minnesota

Updated: February 8, 2008, 11:43 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Welcome home, KG.

Even though Kevin Garnett was inactive for his first game back in Minnesota since the Timberwolves traded him to Boston in July, "The Big Ticket" received a heart-felt ovation from a soldout Target Center crowd that came to see him one more time.

Elias Says

Kevin Garnett did not play in his Target Center homecoming Friday because of an abdominal strain. It would have been his first game in Minnesota since being traded by the Timberwolves last summer. Garnett has scored more points at the Target Center than any three other players combined. The top five: Garnett, 9,807; Wally Szczerbiak, 3,578; Sam Mitchell, 3,268; Doug West, 2,908; Christian Laettner, 2,393.

• Read more Elias Says

Garnett missed his sixth straight game -- an 88-86 victory -- because of an abdominal strain, but this one had to hurt the most.

He starred for the Timberwolves for 12 seasons, forming a bond with the community who embraced him because of his relentless effort on the court and his commitment to charitable endeavors off it.

In classy fashion, the Timberwolves introduced him before the starting lineups to allow the fans a chance to salute their departed hero.

"A special welcome to a player making his return to Target Center," public address announcer Rod Johnson said. "Number 21, from Farragut Academy High School, Kevin Garrrr-nett!"

The packed house went crazy, many of them wearing Garnett's No. 21 Wolves jersey and perhaps more sporting the No. 5 Celtics version.

Garnett grinned sheepishly at first, waving bashfully to the crowd. The cheers and chants kept coming, and the grin turned to a beaming smile as he pounded his heart with his right fist.

He then slowly walked off the floor and returned to the locker room, where the excitable superstar planned to watch the game so as not to be a distraction on the bench.

Garnett still keeps a home in Minnesota and always pledged his allegiance to the team and the state during his 12 years here. The loyalty endeared him to the blue-collar Midwestern fans in the region, and Friday night was their first chance to truly say thank you.

He was traded to the Celtics in July for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff and two first-round draft picks in a deal that now appears to have worked out well for both sides.

Garnett is having and MVP-type season and has teamed with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to make the Celtics and instant contender for the NBA Finals.

In Minnesota, Jefferson has emerged as a dominant force on the low block in the past month and is averaging 21.5 points and 12.3 rebounds. Gomes and Telfair have also been solid players and the draft picks certainly will come in handy for a young team starting over.

While the fans are starting to warm to "Big Al," it's clear they still love KG and were massively disappointed when he couldn't play.

The Celtics carried the league's best record into the game. Rather than risk further injury by playing Garnett, coach Doc Rivers kept him on the bench to play it safe.

The game was sold out long ago, with the struggling Timberwolves ticket office requiring fans to purchase a ticket to another game if they wanted to get one to see KG and the Celtics. With Garnett on the sidelines, the Wolves offered fans a voucher to attend another game later this month as compensation.

Rivers said there was a "99.9 percent" chance Garnett will also miss Sunday's game against Spurs.

There is no timetable for Garnett's return, with Rivers saying that when team trainers "say he's feeling great, then we'll play him."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press