Abdominal strain keeps Garnett on bench in return to Minnesota

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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