Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders watches the final minutes of...

Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders watches the final minutes of the Wizards' game against the Orlando Magic. (Jan. 4, 2012) Credit: AP

Flip Saunders always knew Kevin Garnett was the real deal.

Saunders, in his second stint coaching the Timberwolves, was the franchise's general manager in 1995 under then-team president Kevin McHale and still remembers the trip the two took to the NBA Scouting Combine to get a glimpse of the top draft prospects.

"When we went to go watch KG work out, we went there and KG was the fifth guy," Saunders said Wednesday night. "They had Rasheed Wallace, [Jerry] Stackhouse, Joe Smith, [Antonio] McDyess. so we went in, we said we are going to tell them we are going to take the high school kid, hoping that somebody else would take KG.

"We were there for three minutes. We turned to each other and we said we better hope he's there at No. 5 because you could just see just how he played, and his passion and his workout. Best workout I've ever had anyone go through in my 20 years."

Though Garnett scored only two points in last night's 98-91 loss to the Timberwolves, he is off to a much better start in his second season with the Nets. Entering the night he was averaging 11.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in 25.7 minutes, and Saunders isn't shocked at Garnett's rejuvenation.

"No," Saunders said. "He loves the game. KG, he'll stop playing when he thinks, one, he can't be productive and then I just knew how the year went last year he was not going to be happy with how that year was . . . I thought he would come back and play like he did the other night where he had 18 and 14."

Hollins not a fit

Before deciding to return to the bench himself, Saunders, who's also team president of basketball operations, interviewed Nets coach Lionel Hollins for the Wolves' coaching job. But Saunders just felt the two sides wouldn't be a good fit in part because of the uncertainty surrounding Kevin Love, who was later traded to the Cavaliers for No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins.

"I thought he was going to be better with a veteran type team and I couldn't guarantee him that that was going to be the type of team we'd build," Saunders said. "I wanted to hire a coach that I thought knew what would happen, and since we weren't going to know ahead, we just went in a different direction."

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