Kevin Garnett has been carrying the Minnesota Timberwolves for just about his whole career.
How hard has K.G. had to work to keep the Wolves afloat this year?
Think post-Phil Hartman cast of NewsRadio, with Stephen Root's character, Jimmy James, the only one left with enough quirk to keep the show from becoming like all the rest.
Think Diana Ross, with the Supremes.
Or Corey Dillon, with those bumbling Cincinnati Bengals.
Or recently, when Puff Daddy -- or is it P. Diddy? -- filled in for Regis' co-host Kelly Ripa. Philbin had to do more work that day than he did on two seasons' worth of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"
Or the little Dutch boy, in Holland, with his fingers in the swelling dike.
Or your mom, cleaning the house on Christmas Eve.
Felipe Lopez is out for the year. Joe Smith missed part of it, and he's recovered nicely from a groin injury to return to mediocrity. Terrell Brandon is wearing some nice-looking suits. And the next-closest thing on the roster to a go-to player, Wally Szczerbiak, has missed all but four games -- though he's probably back in two or three weeks.
Guards Kendall Gill, Troy Hudson and Rod Strickland were quality additions. Still, this is Garnett's weakest supporting cast since he was a rookie.
Yet after a win Tuesday over the Los Angeles Lakers raised their record to 14-11, the Timberwolves were tucked in a thick group of teams (nine, to be precise) sure to be in a season-long scrap for seed Nos. 3-8.
Amazing. Dallas and Sacramento have separated themselves from the pack, but San Antonio and especially L.A. aren't doing what everyone expected them to -- win.
Yes, there are dozens of meaningless, doze-off games left before the postseason begins in late April, but it's conceivable -- after examining the flaws of the rest of the West -- to think this team could finish with the conference's third-best record.
Who knows? That six-season losing streak in the first round could be over.
It could also, just as easily, end another way ... by the Wolves failing to even make the playoffs.
Whatever happens, it won't be because Garnett isn't producing.
Don't think he hasn't noticed his increased responsibility, either.
"I've tried to step up into those roles, involving guys," Garnett said. "I read in Phil Jackson's book, 'Sacred Hoops,' that a good player makes everyone around him better. And I think I do that -- from everyone from Loren Woods to Gary Trent to Marc Jackson to even the point guards.
"Sometimes I get frustrated when I don't get easy baskets, because I definitely know I create easy baskets for guys. And not all situations will be hard for 'em. But I make it easy for a lot of people, and I know that. Making everybody better, and still being able to be aggressive and to attack and not be over-passive -- which I'm gettin' so much heat for.
"I'm still able to do the things I do. But there's no greater satisfaction than seeing Loren Woods with 10, Gary Trent with 10, Marc Jackson with 10, getting guys easy buckets.
"So have I thrown a little bit more on my back? I think everyone has to because we're not that deep, and we don't have the Portland and the Dallas rosters. But we work hard, we believe in each other. That's a form of chemistry within itself.
"I sensed since training camp that this would be a challenge for us. The trust that we have has grown since then, and that's good. So I take that and I go with it every night. That's what makes us who we are."
This team has never really had an identity outside of Garnett. This year, Garnett's bald head and diamond-studded earlobes ought to replace the team logo.
He's been getting close to a triple-double almost every night.
"There hasn't been a guy in this league like that for a long time," coach Flip Saunders said.
Garnett's near-triple-doubles have almost become routine, something that certainly doesn't help the interest level of Target Center patrons these days.
"So, who's gonna guard Garnett tonight?"
"What do you mean exactly by 'guarding?' This is the NBA, remember?"
"I bet K.G. goes for 22, 9 and 8."
(Yawn.) "Your point?"
The point is that all this heavy lifting is sure to tire Garnett's shoulders at some point this year. If the Wolves are going to win a playoff series, let alone make it, several others -- pardon the cliche -- are going to have to step up.
Of course, No. 21's back will serve as the ladder.
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