Before this season, Doc Rivers discussed what Kevin Garnett missed last year.
“Offensively,” Rivers told Sports Illustrated, “he understood what he could or couldn’t do. He had become a pick-and-pop player. It frustrated him that he couldn’t post more. He couldn’t get his balance.”
The Celtics missed Garnett’s low-post presence all season. He wanted to take his talents to the block, but his lack of balance kept him from being an interior threat. Forced to rely almost solely on mid-range jumpers, Garnett’s averages — and his impact — decreased. His season ended as it started: with a frustrated Garnett watching another player (Pau Gasol this time) get the best of him.
Offensively, a lot of Garnett’s slippage came down to the lack of balance Rivers mentioned. The balance returned this offseason, and Garnett once again possesses a diverse offensive repertoire. He still has a silky mid-range jumper, but he can now bookend his outside game with strong low-post moves.
Last night might have been the best example yet of Garnett’s newfound balance. Rather than rely on the pick-and-pop with Nate Robinson, Garnett demanded the ball in the post. Once he caught the ball down low, with an Atlanta Hawk on his back, Garnett slowly took his time. He patiently backed down his defenders, showing strength hidden by Garnett’s wiry frame. Rather than fadeaway, Garnett pivoted toward the hoop. The return of his balance allowed Garnett to create contact, rather than avoid it.
I’ll now show you one such play. To start the play, Garnett caught the ball in the post with Josh Smith defending. Notice how Garnett begins a foot or two outside the paint.
Rather than settle for a fadeway jumper, as he might have last year, Garnett backs Smith down. See his low, balanced base? There’s power there that wasn’t evident last season.
In just two dribbles (and a pivot), Garnett reaches the middle of the paint. He turns straight into the hoop rather than fading away.
By creating the contact with his sturdy and powerful base, Garnett earns himself a trip to the free throw line. He also makes the basket, which he punctuates with a nice fist pump. The and-one finish wasn’t exactly pretty, but it was aided by the return of Garnett’s balance and strength. There’s no way he could have made such a move last season.
Yup, I like that. After the game, Garnett told the Boston Globe he appreciates having Shaq around.
Garnett said, “Shaq is like a paradise, man. You ever wash your sheets and then when you go out, you hang them out and when the sun dries them you smell your sheets? That’s what Shaq is.’’
Actually Kevin, I have no idea what the hell you mean by that comparison. But if smelling your sheets is that good, I imagine it’s almost as good as finally having your low-post game back.