Crowd chants 'M-V-P'
MINNEAPOLIS -- NBA commissioner David Stern presented Kevin Garnett with his Most Valuable Player trophy Tuesday night before Game 1 of Minnesota's second-round series against Sacramento.
A video collage filled with Garnett highlights had the crowd chanting "M-V-P!" And with the thunder stick-wielding fans cheering loudly on their feet, Stern could barely be heard.
"You play this game with a passion, with an energy, with a loyalty and respect to your fans," Stern told Garnett as both teams looked on.
The crowd roared its approval as Garnett held up the trophy at halfcourt. Sacramento's Chris Webber clapped for Garnett on the opposing sideline.
"Thank you my family and thank you fans," he said.
Garnett was announced MVP winner on Monday, although he's been considered a lock for the award for months. He 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 Tim Duncan was next with 716 points, and Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal finished third with 523. The Kings' Peja Stojakovic and Kobe Bryant of the Lakers were next.
Stern stopped short of calling Garnett the most versatile player he's ever seen. One name immediately came to mind: Magic Johnson.
"I'm not sure there's someone more versatile than Kevin Garnett. Maybe as versatile. I don't want to start making choices here, because I remember Magic's baby sky hook."
They're both relieved to finally make it past the first round of the playoffs.
The Wolves advanced to the second round for the first time in team history last week by beating Denver in five games. Before that, Minnesota had lost an NBA-record seven consecutive first-round series.
Peeler was on six of those teams.
"We had great teams then," he said, adding that the Wolves' previous seedings always seemed to match them against powerful teams. This year, Minnesota earned its first No. 1 seed.
"They had a great season," Peeler said.
The 12-year NBA veteran hasn't been past the first round since his rookie year with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1994-95 season.
Peeler was traded to Milwaukee along with Joe Smith last season in the deal that brought Sam Cassell and Ervin Johnson to Minnesota. The Bucks cut him, and Peeler signed with Sacramento as a free agent.
Playing with the Kings has been special for Peeler; he grew up in Kansas City and rooted for the old Kansas City Kings.
"I can't ask for much more," he said.
Despite the success of players like Garnett, Stern still has his reservations about the flood of high school players entering the NBA. Stern said he'd like to raise the minimum age that players can declare for the draft.
"But that's a subject for negotiation with the players and I'm not sure we should be talking about it at playoff time," he told reporters before the game.
"My concern is that the failures are going to be pronounced. Some of them, not all of them. And it would be sort of nice to cushion that."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press