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Original Issue


Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury had been best of friends for
three years. They had occupied different universes--Marbury was
the little man from the big city, Garnett the big man from the
small town--but they were conscious that they were soul mates,
one the alley to the other's oop. Garnett called his buddy
Starbury or sometimes X, a reference to Marbury's middle name,
Xzavior. Marbury called Garnett KG. They would talk for hours,
gabbing about hoops and sneakers and girls and things they
figured only they could understand.

They also had never met. "Anytime you can talk to somebody on
the phone without seeing their face and have the relationship we
have, we didn't have to meet," Garnett says. "He could have been
a damn thief, or a murderer, but he was good for me."

Then, late in the summer of 1994, the two having forged a bond
with phone bills that were as large to them then as the checks
they receive from the Minnesota Timberwolves now, their parallel
lives were about to intersect. Marbury was visiting Chicago,
where Garnett had just moved. The phone pals made an appointment
to measure their friendship over 94 feet, and as Marbury
approached his new old friend outside a West Side gym, he spat
out words appropriate to the occasion.

"What's up?"

"Ready?" Garnett replied.

"Yeah, I'm ready."

"Let's go play some ball."

The salutations were spare but poetic in their directness. High
school haiku. They were basketball players, and now they finally
would get to play in a pickup game that meant nothing and
everything to two teenagers, each of whom had already guessed
that the other was his destiny. They shook hands, hugged and
walked inside.

The first time downcourt, against a team of "thugs," as Garnett
recalls, Marbury pounded his dribble, marking time at the top of
the key. Marbury is impatient by nature, but at this moment he
waited, looking for Garnett, a 7-foot tangle of legs and arms
and facial expressions who is impossible to miss. The geometry
of the court was changing--teammates whirled to the hoop,
defenders bullied for position--but Marbury and Garnett sought
only each other's gaze. "It was almost like I could hear Steph
saying, 'Spin. Spin. I'm waiting on you,'" Garnett recalls. "I
could feel it. 'Spin. Spin.'"

Garnett spun off the blocks and headed along the baseline as
Marbury lobbed a rainbow toward the hoop. Garnett clutched the
ball above the rim and stuffed it through emphatically, as if he
were taking a yellow Magic Marker and underlining the play,
making sure everyone grasped its significance. The first time
down, without a word between them, Marbury and Garnett had run a
perfect alley-oop.

"The people in there went crazy," Garnett says. "People ran.
They were running out of the building. They had never seen
something like that."

Garnett and Marbury offer few other specifics from that first
day. Garnett says Marbury buried some jump shots from outside
the 312 area code. Marbury says they went out to get something
to eat afterward. Nothing special. If the alley-oop never made
it to a score sheet, it still was recorded faithfully in the
minds of the two who executed it. The pass and the dunk were so
spectacular, a standing ovation seemed insufficient. In a steamy
Chicago gym Garnett and Marbury received the world's first
running O.

Two years later. On a snowy November night Marbury is dribbling
the ball to the right of the key, 24 feet out, and Garnett is
still wiggling, writhing along the blocks, fighting for
position, searching for his pal. Not much has changed since
their initial meeting unless you count the money, the weather,
the ball boys who go to the airport to warm up the four-wheel
drive so it's toasty when the charter lands after a road trip,
the illegal defenses, the wood paneling in the locker room, the
Timberwolves' dance team and 16,877 Target Center fans who have
paid too much for their tickets to consider running for anything
other than a beer.

This time not a thug but an Outlaw--Los Angeles Clippers
forward Charles (Bo) Outlaw--is muscling Garnett early in the
game. Garnett takes one step toward Marbury, and as Outlaw goes
with him, Garnett twirls and heads for the hoop, grabbing
Marbury's pass at its apex and jamming it. Outlaw has been
thoroughly ooped, and Garnett and Marbury meet at half-court for
a casual been-there, done-that five.

The Timberwolves are thumping Los Angeles, and if they keep it
up, they will improve to 4-0 at home. This is news. At the time
the only other team unbeaten at home is Chicago. The T-Wolves
and the Bulls, in the same sentence. For an eighth-season
franchise that has never won more than 29 games in a season, no
happy factoid is too trifling. Yes, it is early, but after a
lifetime of bumbling--the Timberwolves have been the Clippers
with snow squalls, the New Jersey Nets without the
turnpike--Minnesota has found one small square of common ground
with Michael Jordan.

There is an airiness in Minnesota, a sense of optimism that can
come only from those who don't know better, from innocents who
somehow have remained unscarred by the annual draft lottery
follies that have produced the incorrigible (Isaiah Rider), the
insolent (Christian Laettner) and the ineffective (Pooh
Richardson, Felton Spencer and Donyell Marshall), or by the
botched trades or by the procession of coaches who hardly left
footprints in the snow. Garnett and Marbury can bring so much to
the Timberwolves, but nothing more important than an ability to
induce amnesia.

"I was talking to [University of Minnesota coach] Clem Haskins
the other day," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders says, "and I
told him that two of my best players are younger than his two
best players."

Garnett is 20. He was called Da Kid as a rookie, in 1995-96, but
now, on the tape above his ankles, he has written "KG-21," a kid
no more. He is grown up enough to have averaged 14 points as a
starter in the second half of last season and confident enough
to chew out 7'2" Stojko Vrankovic, a 32-year-old center, during
a practice when he finessed a layup instead of dunking. Right
now Garnett isn't the best player on his own team--at week's end
forward Tom Gugliotta ranked seventh among NBA scoring
leaders--but that doesn't mean Garnett won't be the NBA's next
great player. He is, Saunders says, "a physical freak," a
combination of size and skills and enthusiasm and personality
that will soon command its own ring in a league that is part
sport and all circus.

Other than Scottie Pippen, no NBA small forward is as disruptive
a defender. And Garnett creates many of his own offensive
chances. On Nov. 12 he took only 13 shots against the Portland
Trail Blazers when the T-Wolves' offense barely nodded in his
direction, but he still wound up with 20 points in addition to
11 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots. (At week's
end he was averaging 14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists and
2.97 blocks.)

"If KG were only 6'6" or 6'7" instead of 6'11"," says Minnesota
vice president Kevin McHale, "he'd still be a helluva player."
Garnett is, in fact, 7 feet but demurs when the discussion turns
to height. He frets that if he lets on that he's taller than
6'11", some genius might want to switch him to center. Give a
coach an inch.... No, thank you. Garnett is too happy being the
world's tallest small forward.

Nineteen-year-old rookie Marbury, too, dissembles slightly about
his height. He is 6'2" in the program, but real life has shrunk
him at least an inch. McHale ranked Marbury No. 1 in the 1996
draft, ahead of Allen Iverson (taken first overall, by the
Philadelphia 76ers), and if it was a minority opinion, it
certainly wasn't outlandish. Marbury, a point guard who could
run the show without stealing it, seemed a perfect fit in
Minnesota. "Explosive off the dribble, can shoot, shoot with
range, not overhandle it," says McHale, ticking off Marbury's
attributes. "Some people like chocolate ice cream, some like
vanilla. Allen Iverson is more flamboyant, but Marbury is more
what we needed."

Even in the preseason, Garnett and Marbury were evoking
whispered comparisons with the Utah Jazz's Karl Malone and John
Stockton. Such allusions to the foremost practitioners of the
NBA's two-man game were laughingly premature, but the subject
comes up often, even though Garnett and Marbury each suffered
disabling early-season ankle sprains that limited their time
together. When the topic is broached, the two Timberwolves have
a rehearsed response. They tonelessly mumble that they don't
want to be another Stockton-Malone. They want to be the first

For both, there will be growing pains--literal ones for Garnett,
who is steely but slight at 220 pounds. He must get stronger to
withstand his foes' thrice-weekly (at least) muggings, which so
far have been the one effective defense against a 7-footer with
speed, smarts and moves. But someday his boy's body will mature
into a man's.

Marbury, too, must adapt to the rigors of playing 35 minutes a
night--with the ball in his hands almost half that time--against
the best players in the world. At week's end he was averaging
16.2 points and 6.6 assists, numbers that were boosted by two
spectacular games last month at the Target Center. On Dec. 23
Marbury tossed in a season-high 33 points and added eight
assists as the T-Wolves beat the Jazz 107-98. Three nights later
Marbury was instrumental in Minnesota's 88-80 comeback win over
the New York Knicks, going 4 for 7 from three-point range while
scoring 27 points and amassing seven assists.

But the apprenticeship of an NBA point guard involves more than
statistics. There is a steeper learning curve at NBA U than at
Georgia Tech, where Marbury played last season. Can he defend a
pick-and-roll? How quickly can he spot, and exploit, a mismatch?
Can he get his teammates involved in the offense? "Stephon
always has had the ability to create shots for himself,"
Saunders says, "but he has to be able to run the offense and get
shots for other players. After running a motion offense [in
college], where he didn't have as much direct responsibility, he
now has a lot more to contend with."

As the two gain experience, their power as a tandem should grow.
"There's been movement toward [a two-man offense] in the
league," Toronto Raptors executive vice president Isiah Thomas
says. "The way things are going with salaries and the [salary]
cap, it's coming down to paying two of your guys a lot of money.
Those two guys are going to be the ones teams trust, the ones
who get the ball."

When asked to name the NBA's best young players, Thomas quickly
comes up with Garnett and Marbury, his own Damon Stoudamire and
Marcus Camby, Iverson and Jerry Stackhouse of Philadelphia and
the Golden State Warriors' Joe Smith. All, except Smith, are in
pairs. "Right now there are a lot of guys out there fighting for
turf," says Thomas.

On this night the Timberwolves and the Clippers don't look as if
they are fighting for turf as much as fighting to erase the
past. The Clippers, unglued by a Timberwolves trap, take only
about a minute to piddle away an eight-point lead late in the
fourth quarter. Marbury has a couple of assists and makes a free
throw at the end--he finishes with 15 points and nine assists
even though his still-sore right ankle limits his
explosiveness--but it is Garnett who takes the game and palms
it. His final 4:11 is: three free throws, a drive through
traffic, a tip-in, three rebounds and two blocked shots,
including a prodigious swat on guard Darrick Martin's desperate
drive at the buzzer. Minnesota holds on to win 98-96, and an
exasperated Clippers coach Bill Fitch says, "All I know is
[Garnett] went over one of my veteran players twice at the end
tonight to win a ball game."

Garnett laughs when told that he owned the end of the game. He
has a three-year, $5.6 million contract, owns a house in the
suburbs with a hoop and a glass backboard in the driveway, a
trampoline and a Jacuzzi big enough to hold a game's starting
lineups. He has three dogs and a garage containing two Land
Rovers, two Lexuses and a Range Rover, and he possesses an
electric smile. But basketball isn't private property. It is a
game that belongs to anyone who loves it enough.

"I don't play basketball for the money," Garnett says as he
pulls on a coat and prepares to brave a wintry night. "I don't
play it for the crowd. When I didn't have a friend, when I was
lonely, I always knew I could grab that orange pill and go hoop.
I could go and dunk on somebody. If things weren't going right,
I could make a basket and feel better."

When I didn't have a friend....

"Yo, boy."

"Who's this?"

"It's Steph, man."

"Mayberry...uh, Marbury?"




"I been reading about you...."

Of course they had known about each other even before that night
when Marbury, then 14 1/2 or 15, picked up the phone and called
Garnett in Mauldin, S.C. The basketball world had known about
Marbury since he was a sixth-grader. There is an industry of
ratings services and back-of-the-rack magazines, a subset of the
basketball world that identifies and sometimes beatifies players
long before Dickie V puts them back in diapers and calls them
dandies. By the time he was a senior at Brooklyn's Lincoln High,
Marbury had figured in Darcy Frey's 1994 book, The Last Shot,
been featured on Nightline and written a diary for the hip-hop
hoops magazine Slam. Garnett certainly didn't have to wait for
the introduction from Ted Koppel. "Sure I'd heard about this kid
in New York, Mayberry: Can't shoot well, but that mother's
fast," Garnett says.

And Marbury had seen Garnett using a crossover dribble in a
highlight package on Scholastic Sports America, a half-hour high
school show on ESPN on Monday afternoons. "Wow, I was thinking,
for a big man, that wasn't normal," Marbury says. "I thought, If
I were bigger, I'd be like Kevin. And Kevin thought if he were a
little man, he'd be like me. It's like we were living through
each other vicariously."

"The thing with high school ball, it's a national phenomenon,"
says Bobby Hartstein, Marbury's high school coach and an
administrator at the ABCD summer basketball camp. "It's no
longer a local thing. There're national polls, camps. Their
senior year Kevin was USA Today's player of the year and Stephon
was Gatorade's and Parade's player of the year. In fact, it's
international in scope. Steph played in Argentina as a junior,
Greece as a senior."

There is a minor disagreement about Marbury and Garnett's
initial conversation. Marbury says it occurred the very night he
got Garnett's telephone number. He says Garnett's mother,
Shirley, answered and knew him instantly--"Ms. Garnett said, 'I
saw you in the magazines. You're that cute little fellow,'"
Marbury reports--although Garnett insists he didn't actually
speak with Marbury until the following day. "I got home late
that first night, smelling from ball, and my mother said Stephon
Marbury had called," Garnett remembers. "I tried to call him
back, but it was like trying to get in touch with the president
of the United States."

Once they did talk, they didn't shut up. The Garnett phone bill
was $80 one month, $55 another. "When I got the bills, I told
him, 'Mr. Garnett, you don't even have a job,'" says Shirley, a
hairstylist. "Kevin's first week working at Burger King, he had
to give me half his check to cover the calls. I thought I was
going to have to get a blocker on the phone. One night I was
eavesdropping on them, and it was all, Yeah, man, know this? and
Yeah, man, know that? For hours. They must have thought it was a
local call."

Garnett and Marbury could always connect by phone, but they kept
missing each other in person. Garnett went to Nike summer camps
while Marbury attended the ABCDs sponsored by Adidas, rival
companies separated by a chasm as wide as the 600 miles between
the projects of Coney Island and sleepy Mauldin. Marbury wanted
Garnett to play on the Gauchos, his AAU team, but Shirley said
Kevin was playing enough basketball already and wouldn't let him
go to New York. "I'm known to say many nos," Shirley says.
Marbury even wanted his buddy to move to Brooklyn and play his
senior year at Lincoln, which Shirley quickly figured would ease
the pressure on Ma Bell but might not improve her son's poor
study habits. "But I knew Kevin had to leave Mauldin," she said.
"And I knew we didn't have much time."

Kevin now says he had to leave because he was having too much
fun, sneaking out his bedroom window, hanging out with his
friends. Maybe. But there was a harder, colder reason--as hard
and cold as the handcuffs police slapped on him one day in May
of his junior year.

There was a fight at the high school involving a white kid and a
group of black kids. Kevin says he was merely rubbernecking--at
his height, he certainly had the best view--and took no part in
the fight, the cause of which is disputed. But the white student
sustained a hairline fracture of an ankle, and when the police
showed up and statements were sworn, Kevin was fingered as a
participant. When the call came to the salon, Shirley excused
herself and went down to the station. She found her son in
tears. He and four others had been charged with second-degree
public lynching.

Because Kevin and the others accused attended a pretrial
intervention program, the charges were dropped. But the incident
is burned into his memory. He says he was abandoned by his high
school coach, by kids he considered friends. Kevin decided right
then that he would never try to have another friend. He had two.
That was enough. One was Bug, the kid who lived across the
street in Mauldin. The other was a kid from Brooklyn he had
never met. "Stephon was a real inspiration in Kevin's life,"
Shirley says. "Stephon served as a listener, someone who was
there for Kevin in a tough time. Kevin loves everyone. Kevin
tried to please everyone, all his associates, all his so-called
friends. But Stephon was the one telling Kevin he had to work
hard, academically and athletically."

Kevin, his mother and his younger sister, Ashley, moved to
Chicago so he could finish high school at Farragut Academy, a
public school on the West Side. Marbury and Garnett now got to
play together occasionally--in that first pickup game, in
various All-Star invitationals--and the flood of phone calls
between them dwindled to a trickle, though one day in early 1995
Garnett turned on the answering machine to hear, "I passed my
test, boy. I'm eligible!"

Marbury had scored high enough on the American College Test to
meet NCAA requirements for Division I freshman eligibility.
Garnett, as schools like Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and
South Carolina knew too well, had not. "Stephon kept saying to
me, 'You're gonna pass it, you're going to pass it,'" Garnett
says. "But [that call] sort of put me in a state of mind, a
feeling that I wasn't smart enough to pass the test. I was in a

So they wandered down separate paths. Marbury would play at
Georgia Tech, and Garnett would be the first high school player
in more than 20 years to head straight for the NBA. On June 28,
1995, the day of the NBA draft, Garnett was in Toronto in his
hotel room, preparing to find out who would be gambling on a
19-year-old with man-sized skills, when the telephone rang. His
most recent ACT results had come in. He had scored high enough
to play college ball.

The pair kept in phone contact. Marbury would ask about the NBA,
and Garnett would tell him you had to enjoy it because it goes
by real fast. Garnett would ask about school, and Marbury would
tell him about a fantasy world called a campus. And when they
hung up, they would brag about each other to anyone who would

"When he had 21 [against the Vancouver Grizzlies], I was telling
people, 'He's going off, he's snapping,'" Marbury says. "Guys
would say, 'Yeah, yeah, Garnett's all right.' I'm like, 'Watch.

"Georgia Tech's going to play Manhattan [in the Yellow Jackets'
season opener], and I tell Flip [Saunders], 'My boy's about to
play. Better get a seat belt. My boy's got a game,'" Garnett
says. "The next day he's saying 'Marbury's too small, and that's
only Manhattan.'"

Garnett would stop McHale after practice and remind him about
Marbury. McHale would say, Yes, absolutely, he's great, but how
about that Iverson from Georgetown? Whenever Iverson had a
spectacular game, the Timberwolves would make sure Garnett knew
it. Whenever Marbury lit up the court, like when he threw in 29
against Boston College in the NCAA tournament, Garnett was right
back at them. By last spring McHale was a captivated audience.

Says Garnett, his face spreading into a broad smile, "At the
start of the year they keep telling me they're looking at
Iverson, and now it's, 'KG, come into my office. Is your boy
coming out? KG, talk to me. Is he coming out?' This place was

"Kevin kept telling me we had to get his boy, and I'd told him
that we'd love to," McHale says. "But the problem was we were
batting fifth [in draft order] and weren't sure his boy was
going to be around long enough for us to get a swing at him."

McHale had the 1996 draft doped out. He knew Philadelphia loved
Iverson and concluded Toronto and Vancouver weren't in the
market for point guards. But the Milwaukee Bucks, with the No. 4
pick, were open for business, and Marbury, who had completed his
basketball Ph.D. at Georgia Tech in one year, could be a
significant asset. On the afternoon of the draft McHale and
Bucks vice president/general manager Mike Dunleavy struck a
deal. If there were no surprises in the top three selections,
Milwaukee would take Marbury, the Timberwolves would draft
shooting guard Ray Allen from Connecticut, and then the teams
would flop rookies, with Minnesota throwing in a conditional
future first-round draft pick. Marbury was parading around the
floor at New Jersey's Continental Airlines Arena in his crisp,
new Bucks cap when he was told to switch caps with Allen.

This is what Kevin and Stephon had talked about. This is what
they had dreamed about. This was how life was supposed to turn
out, wasn't it? "Smile, you're a Minnesota Timberwolf," said the
NBA publicity photographer, snapping Marbury out of his reverie.

"Damn, I'm a Timberwolf," said Marbury, slamming a basketball to
the floor twice and glowing like Christmas.

Jim LaBumbard, the Timberwolves' assistant manager of public
relations, had to call the office right away. Oooh, boy! They
were hardly going to believe this. Here was a T-Wolves
first-rounder who hadn't mumbled something about just being
happy making it to the NBA but who actually was delighted to be
going to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Happy to be a T-Wolf? Never
happened before.

Kevin McHale leaned back in his chair, propping his size 15s on
the desk as he pondered the subject of friendship. This was a
Wednesday, midday, and the vice president of basketball
operations was in his business suit: shorts, sweatshirt,
basketball shoes. The markedly casual Timberwolves don't seem to
have an organizational chart as much as an organizational circle
that flows like the Celtics offenses McHale was part of in
Boston. A lot of NBA vice presidents might watch practice every
day. But probably no other vice president watches practice every
day in shorts and then sticks around to show a few post moves to
his star forward.

"On the day he drafted Garnett, [McHale] came into the office
wearing gym shorts," says Jerry Sichting, director of scouting
and player development and one of four Minnesota assistant
coaches. "He told me that almost all the worthwhile things he
had done in his life weren't done in a suit and tie."

McHale, who had worked for the Timberwolves in the front office
and as a broadcaster, assumed his current post on May 11, 1995,
accepting the job not because he needed it but because he
thought if he surrounded himself with the right people, it could
be fun. He hired Sichting, a teammate on the Celtics. He hired
Saunders, who had played point guard at the University of
Minnesota when McHale played forward, as general manager and
made him the coach (replacing Bill Blair) seven months later.
The choice of Saunders as G.M. seemed quixotic. He had been the
second-winningest coach in Continental Basketball Association
history. But was that a good thing? There was a buddy system in
Minnesota that predates Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury.

"Kinships develop," McHale says. "Flip. Jerry Sichting. But
competence is the most important thing. Competence and
friendship is a nice blend. Friendship is important because you
can tell each other the truth right away. Friends cut to the
chase, and in a 48-minute basketball game, you'd better cut to
the chase. I like that aspect of Kevin and Stephon. These guys
play unselfish ball. They think of themselves as basketball
players, not quasi entertainers. One guy has a bigger game one
night, the other isn't upset. You see it on some teams that have
cosuperstars: One of them will have four big games in a row, and
the next three or four games the other guy will be firing from
anywhere just so the first guy won't get ahead of him. That's
competing against yourself. I think you should compete against
the other team. That's the way Steph and Kevin think too."

It is equally true that under the NBA collective bargaining
agreement players can become free agents after their first three
seasons. Garnett will be eligible after 1997-98, and that sound
you hear are Brinks trucks gunning their engines. Marbury, who
has a three-year, $6 million contract, will be free the
following year. Under NBA salary cap rules Minnesota will have
an advantage over other suitors because a team can spend any
amount to re-sign one of its own players who has become a free

"If we can keep them together, eventually we should play for the
championship," says Saunders, whose club was 16-19 (and had won
eight of its last 10 games) at week's end. "We hope we can sign
them to long-term deals. If they leave, very rarely would one
team have that kind of money in back-to-back years to sign them
both [as free agents]. If they want to play together, this
probably is the place. And they might want to be Stockton and
Malone, guys who play together in one place a long time. Magic,
Bird, McHale, Russell, West. You associate these guys with their
franchises. I think that appeals to Kevin and Stephon."

Saunders has cut to the chase. Stockton and Malone are going to
the Hall of Fame, a couple of antediluvian pick-and-rollers who
stayed together a few centuries. Can it happen again in today's
NBA? Can it happen in Minnesota? Marbury, the Brooklyn kid,
says, "This is the perfect place to play basketball. No
distractions. It enables you to watch a lot of tape." Stick that
in your Chamber of Commerce brochures: The Twin Cities, We
Really Help You Concentrate! Marbury, who lives in an apartment
five minutes from downtown, says the only thing he did to adapt
to the NBA's version of Green Acres was to turn on the
television when he was ready for bed. It's just too quiet to
sleep without it.

Garnett is more of the country squire with his trampoline and
his Sega and the other toys befitting his wealth. Bug (more
formally known as Jaime Peters), his Mauldin buddy, is living
with him, and his older sister, Sonya, lives nearby and comes
around to cook his meals. Stephon sometimes stops by to eat or
to hang, but inseparable friends do move in different spheres.
Slice, a.k.a. Jeffrey Morton, Marbury's Coney Island pal, is
staying with him. Of course, Garnett and Marbury see each other
at work all the time.

And they still talk. Garnett always reminds the rookie how hard
you have to work in basketball, and Marbury tells Garnett how
prudent you have to be in life. In 1995, two weeks after his
18th birthday, Marbury became a father. "I love my daughter to
death," Marbury says of 22-month-old Stephanie, who lives with
her mother, Nicole Thompson, in Brooklyn. "But I tell Kevin that
you have to be careful." Marbury has a cautionary tale--his own.
In a proceeding scheduled for April, Thompson is pursuing
Marbury for child support of Stephanie. (Family Court rules
prohibit either of the principals from commenting in detail on
the case.) "I see my daughter a lot, speak to her on the phone
every day," says Marbury, who could also hear her voice behind
the Minnesota bench, where she sat with his family during a game
against the Nets in New Jersey last Thursday. "But Kevin is so
crazy about babies, and, you know, he's just got to be careful."

"Stephon knows me like a book," Garnett says. "I can't stand for
people to know me. Only two people do. Bug. He's like my shadow,
my boy, my man. And Stephon."

Garnett and Marbury might always be there for each other. Maybe
as close as the low post and the top of the circle. Certainly no
farther than a telephone call.

They have cell phones now.

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK These days no one has the hot hand when Marbury (left) visits Garnett at home for a driveway workout. [Stephon Marbury and Kevin Garnett]

COLOR PHOTO: NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBA PHOTOS Tentative as a rookie, Garnett (dunking on the Knicks) now is forceful around the hoop. [Kevin Garnett in game]

COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO The slick Marbury (with ball) has quickly learned to read opponents' defenses and his teammates' moves. [Stephon Marbury in game]

COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO As they had dreamed, Marbury and Garnett became a double team (here against Orlando's Dennis Scott). [Stephon Marbury, Dennis Scott, and Kevin Garnett in game]

COLOR PHOTO: NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBA PHOTOS A veteran celebrity, Marbury is comfortable signing autographs for fans not much younger than he is. [Stephon Marbury signing autographs for children]

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECKIt has already been a banner season in the Twin Cities for the Timberwolves' two emerging stars. [Banners on streetlight poles featuring Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury]

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Marbury, the 19-year-old rookie, has happily taken his NBA cues from grizzled second-year-man Garnett, 20. [Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury]