Were it not for a falling-out with his team in Greece, 6'11"
Dean Garrett might be in the midst of his eighth season playing
overseas. Instead he has found a home at last in the NBA as the
Timberwolves' starting center. "I never understood why no team
would sign me," says the 30-year-old Garrett, the league's
oldest rookie. "I'd be across the water, reading that the league
was having trouble coming up with quality big guys."
In 1988 Phoenix used the 38th pick in the draft to choose
Garrett out of Indiana. Garrett was the other juco transfer who
started for the Hoosiers' 1987 NCAA champs--the more memorable
one being guard Keith Smart, who hit the 17-foot jumper with
five seconds to go that beat Syracuse 74-73 in the title game at
the Louisiana Superdome. Garrett missed the 1988-89 season with
a broken foot, and was cut by the Suns before the '89-90 opener.
He headed to Europe and over the next seven seasons played for
four teams in Italy and Greece that each paid him close to $1
million a year.
Last year Garrett averaged 10.6 points and 8.1 rebounds for PAOK
in Thessaloniki. But the day before the final regular-season
game, he was suspended by the team for breaking its midnight
curfew. While Garrett claimed it was an isolated incident, the
media in Greece had often cited him for after-hours partying.
When Papagos upset PAOK 85-79 in the finale, there were
allegations--never substantiated--that the game had been fixed.
Among those making the allegations was Garrett. "They tried to
ruin my name in Europe," he says. "They were going to lose and
wanted to put the blame on me."
Garrett publicly apologized to the team for missing curfew but
then left for the U.S., forfeiting two months of his salary. He
spent the summer working out with the Bucks and the Timberwolves
and accepted Minnesota's offer of the league minimum for
veterans, $270,000, even though it represented a huge pay cut.
Since replacing Stojko Vrankovic in the starting lineup, Garrett
has averaged 9.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks, and the
team is 8-5. After he had 11 points, 12 boards and four blocks
in a 107-96 win over Phoenix on Sunday, Timberwolves coach Flip
Saunders said, "We're getting to the point where he's the one
guy we cannot afford to take out of the game." That's a long way
for Dean Garrett to have come. --W.F.R.