A question for the fans who lived through the 90s: was Garnett an untouchable after his rookie season in 1996? I always thought that the Celtics could've traded a bunch of their lottery picks for Garnett to be that high IQ PF that Pitino seemed to crave (even though Garnett played SF in his rookie season, but I think it was pretty obvious that he had the potential to become a full time power forward).
By about halfway through his rookie season it was clear KG was a superstar in the making. He moved into the starting lineup around that time. I remember he had a huge game in Chicago against the 72 win Bulls and Michael Jordan was flabbergasted at how special / talented KG was. "How can a 18-19year old kid come in here and do that?" Something like that. I looked it up - 20 points and 8 rebounds. "No normal 18 year old kid can do that". Those were types of comments from MJ. Everyone really.
There were doubts when he was drafted. So skinny. So young. No college. Was he mature enough? Could he handle the physicality of the NBA? But he had a strong rookie year. Was just as good as the older rookie bigs - Joe Smith (#1 pick), McDyess (#2 pick), Rasheed Wallace (#4 pick). KG had the jump-shot, the ball-handling, the passing, the defense, the rebounding. He was more complete at 18 years old than anyone expected.
By the start of his second season he was nicknamed "The Franchise" because everyone knew he was the future of that team. By the end of that 2nd season, KG got the biggest contract in NBA history. So certainly untouchable in that 2nd year.
Also, during that first season, Minny started to build their team around KG because they knew how special KG was. First step was to clear out any bad characters that might disrupt his development. Christian Laettner was traded at midseason. Then JR Rider who was moved on in the summertime. Those two guys were Minny's star players prior to KG so getting rid of them was a big deal. They didn't want anyone there that would disrupt KG's development. They knew he was the future.
It was the game in Chicago that I remember as his breakout game. National attention. Were everyone stood up and got really excited about just how good this young guy Kevin Garnett was.