Thursday, January 7, 2010

KG and Starbury, What Could Have Been

Recently myself and Dan were having a conversation about the career of Kevin Garnett, and the how ironic it was that he and Stephon Marbury were re-united on the 2009 Celtics squad. For those of you who do not know, these two started their careers together on the Minnesota Timberwolves, and were one of the more dynamic duos during their short time together.

After a stellar freshman year at Georgia Tech, in which he was named a 3rd Team All-American, Marbury declared himself eligible for the 1996 NBA Draft. On Draft day, Marbury was picked by the Millauwke Bucks 4th overall, but immediately traded to the Timberwolves for the rights to Ray Allen and a future pick. I distinctly remember watching a young Marbury crying tears of joy after being drafted and traded to the Timberwolves because he was going to play with his longtime close friend Kevin Garnett.

Garnett had become one of the first to make the prep-to-pro jump that paved the way for many superstars as well as many busts (Kwame Brown anyone?). Garnett earned All-Rookie honors during the 1995 season, and now with Marbury running the point, and providing camaraderie, Garnett's numbers jumped during the 1996 season and the two seemed unstoppable. After just one season together, Marbury and Garnett lead the T-Wolves to their first playoff appearance in 1997, and Garnett was now being mentioned in the small superstar category of the NBA elite. The two were always having fun together, and seemed to have one of the rare relationships in the NBA where teammates actually enjoy each other's company, which almost always leads to extremely successful seasons plus a few rings.

(Please Excuse the Eurotrash soundtrack.)

However, during the 1999 lockout shortened season, the one thing that tears apart so many friends became a major issue: money. Garnett had just been signed to a ridiculous 6 year $126 million dollar contract, and this, for a lack of a better term, pissed off Marbury to the point where he disrupted the team so much he was traded to the New Jersey Nets, in a three team trade that landed Terell Brandon to the Timberwolves, and ultimately dooming the franchise.

Let's take a look at what could have been. During the 2000-2001 season, Marbury averaged (roughly) 24 points, 8 assists, and 1.5 steals a game, while Garnett averaged 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks a game. In my estimation, had the two stuck together, Marbury would have averaged about 19 points, 10 assists a game, while Garnett would have had about 27 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists per game. Granted, the West was stacked this year, with the Lakers ultimately winning the Championship, with Kobe and Shaq dominating the Finals. But a small part of me believes that The Big Ticket and Starbury really could have given the Lakers a run for their money, because they had what Shaq and Kobe lacked; a true friendship and respect for each other. A lot of people may say that Kobe and Shaq's prowess would have been too much, but I like to believe that KG and Marbury would have willed the T-Wolves to a Championship, or two, or three, but these are all pipe dreams I suppose.

After the trade, these two careers could not have gone in more opposite directions. Garnett was stuck on a crummy team putting up all-world stats while letting his prime years go to waste. Fortunately, he was traded to the Celtics, and well, we all know what happened after that. Marbury went completey insane, and in doing so ruined the best franchise in basketball, The New York Knicks (bias alert!). Marbury was last seen eating Vaseline on the internet, while Garnett was bringing home Defensive MVP honors, and becoming the most important part of the Celtics championship run. However, it's fun to think about what could have been, and a shame that Marbury's ego broke up what could have been one of the best duos in the associations history.

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