The return of Kevin Garnett was certainly something many Minnesota Timberwolves fans were looking forward to seeing Monday night.

He was for so many years not just the face of the franchise, but the heart, mind, body and soul of who they were and what they aspired to be as team.

So as Garnett missed his fifth straight game with inflammation in his left foot, there was a sense that the many fans that have followed his career from the time the Timberwolves drafted him with the fifth overall pick in the 1995 draft straight out of high school, to him establishing himself as one of the game's premier players, to his status now as one of the game's elder and well-decorated statesmen, those same fans may never get a chance to see him play again up close and personal here in Minneapolis.

Garnett signed a three-year deal with the Celtics during the offseason, but it might as well have been a series of one-year deals because both Garnett and the C's know that the 36-year-old may call it quits at any time.

When Garnett heads back to Malibu, Calif. this summer to rest, unwind and give some thought to whether he wants to come back to Boston, rest assured the good folks of Minnesota will be paying close attention.

His departure was nothing like that way over-the-top production LeBron James put on when he left Cleveland to play for Miami. And Garnett, despite the Timberwolves going nowhere in a hurry, didn't demand to be traded the way Carmelo Anthony did from Denver to New York, either.

If anything, Garnett was guilty of being too loyal for too long to a franchise that could never quite surround him with the right pieces to become a steady title contender aside from their 2004 trip to the Western Conference finals.