Watching Kevin Garnett play last night, I was slightly impressed. His defensive mobility looked improved, and he hit a few jump shots. The one play where he blocked Reggie Evans twice, then sprinted down court was spectacular. Very few big men display that kind of athleticism and hustle. Garnett looked okay, I thought. Not great, not like he did in 2008, but okay. Better than last year, but not close to perfect.
Then I read A. Sherrod Blakely’s piece about Garnett for CSNNE. Reading that, you would have thought Garnett looked like an MVP candidate. A. Sherrod, if you’re reading this, I’ve got nothing but love for you and your work. I simply disagree with you. Vehemently.
“The road to recovery continues to be a relatively smooth one for Kevin Garnett, who is playing at a level Celtics Nation hasn’t seen since the C’s 2008 title run.”
Have you been watching the same games I have? Garnett is averaging 5.3 points and 4.0 rebounds so far this preseason. He’s shooting 27.3% field goals. He hasn’t even shot 50% yet in one game. If I’m remembering correctly, he hasn’t dunked the ball once.
Look, I know stats don’t mean much in preseason. I know Garnett doesn’t care about averaging double-doubles in meaningless games against the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets. I know people are looking at Garnett’s mobility, not statistics, to see if he’s healthy. But I saw Garnett get blocked last night by Andrea Bargnani. It was enough to make me puke. Garnett looks a little more agile (and I stress a little), but is he really playing “at a level Celtics Nation hasn’t seen since the C’s 2008 title run”? Is the road to recover really so smooth?
“It was yet another sign Garnett is feeling as though he can do more than he did last season, when he was still on the mend from having bone spurs removed in his right knee in 2009. While he missed a number of shots that he normally makes, Garnett was able to get pretty much any kind of shot he wanted, which didn’t happen too often last season.”
More than he did last season? Sure. Garnett looked damn fragile last time around. But “able to get pretty much any kind of shot he wanted”? I repeat: he was blocked by Andrea Bargnani! And in the game against Philadelphia, Trent Plaisted forced KG into a miserable turnaround that almost missed everything. Trent Plaisted! If Garnett was able to get pretty much any shot he wanted, he wouldn’t be shooting 27.3%. Even if he has missed some shots he normally makes.
“Another noticeable difference was his defense, which frequently forced Toronto’s ball-handlers to change direction on pick-and-roll plays. And in his one-on-one matchup with former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani, Garnett literally shut him down by holding Bargnani scoreless in the first half.”
Garnett’s mobility is better this year. It definitely is. His defense is improved. I don’t think we’ll see him get burned by the likes of Kris Humphries any time soon.
But don’t let anyone fool you into thinking he’s back to 2008 form. Back then, Garnett would catch an alley-oop and throw it down viciously, then get down on all fours, bark at his opponent, clap in his opponent’s mug, and finally hound the opposing point guard down the floor. He was a seven footer who could pressure quick guards all 94 feet down the floor, and do it well. Once he starts doing that again, and releasing his fadeaway jumper with no problems against any defender in the world, and getting to the hoop more often than once per game, I’ll admit he looks like 2008 Garnett.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll settle for a defensively disruptive, semi-athletic Garnett any day. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet. He hasn’t looked great.