Paul Flannery wrote a nice piece about an open Celtics practice, and one observation he drew was one I definitely expected: Kevin Garnett never stops talking.
He talks when a screen comes. He talks when no screens come. He talks to himself, and he talks to teammates. He offers advice, and sometimes he talks just to talk. He even congratulates himself after nice plays. After one play in yesterday’s practice, Garnett said, “Nice pick, Kev.”
Which reminds me…
If you look at me now, it’s difficult to tell I once played college basketball. In truth, saying I “played college basketball” is a drastic exaggeration. I sat the bench for a God-awful Skidmore College basketball team, and I only bring up this painful portion of my basketball career to tell a story.
Since I didn’t play much (read: since I didn’t play at all), I found a seat at the end of the bench and cheered on my teammates. But we were so bad it was often tough to cheer. We finished the season 2-22, and neither of our wins should have counted. One was against an NAIA team, which I’m pretty sure was filled with blind kids. At least, they played like they couldn’t see the hoop, or — for that matter — any of their teammates, or the defenders. Whether or not the Lyndon State Hornets could see with 20/20 vision, I’m 100% positive my little brother’s eighth-grade AAU team would have had no troubles dispatching them.
Our other win was an even bigger joke — it was against our league’s top team. Due to a combination of my team’s 30 turnovers (yes, 30 turnovers), and Hamilton College’s 21 offensive rebounds, Hamilton shot 40 more times than we did. Yes, 40 more times. And they were the best team in our league. And we were a disgrace to James Naismith’s legacy. Somehow, we still won. By “somehow,” I mean we shot an impossible 61.4% from the field, including 11-15 (73.3%) from the three-point arc. To recap, we shot the ball better than we ever could have dreamed of and still needed overtime to win the game. We were THAT bad.
(And just to prove I actually tell the truth, here’s the box score. You’ll see my name, with zero minutes played. But I actually played in the game. For 3.1 seconds, that is. For some reason, my coach thought playing the game’s final 3.1 seconds was actually what I wanted. He didn’t realize it was completely humiliating to be nothing more than a victory cigar, especially when I couldn’t even play offense (the only part of basketball I enjoyed) — I entered the game just in time for Hamilton’s final heave. So thanks for the playing time, coach. You fucking asswipe.)
But I just went on a random rant about nothing, when the story I’m supposed to tell involves a preseason game in my sophomore year. Since there was nothing to cheer about on Skidmore College’s basketball team, we bench players decided to do something else instead: we cracked jokes. We’d make fun of the other team, or our own teammates. One teammate, whose name I’ll leave out of this, smelled quite a bit. Another was highly feminine. Another deserved to be cut, yet started. Another was what we like to call a “Practice MVP.” In other words, he was far better in practice than he was in games — probably partially because he was playing against us bums in practice, and partially because his confidence was somewhere between “tiny” and “non-existent.”
You could call us bad teammates, but, really, there was nothing else to do that would have kept us captivated. It’s tough to cheer when your team loses by 40 points every night. Anyway, the preseason game came along, and I was doing my normal end-of-bench routine. Making fun of people left and right. Cracking jokes with the other end-of-bench scrubs. Living the dream with a free front row seat (okay, it was Division III basketball — all tickets were free). We were down by about 10 points at the end of the game (a huge improvement for us), when my favorite play ever happened.
A player on the other team, whose name was Travis, blocked a shot down low, saving a layup. He ran down the court, looked straight at our bench, slapped his own ass, and screamed out, “Good ‘D’, Trav.” Just like Garnett, he was referring to himself in the third person while congratulating himself. From that moment on, whenever our team made a nice play, we all shouted out, “Good shot, Trav!”, or “Good pass, Trav!” Sadly, with the bunch of scrubs we had, we didn’t use the saying very often. There weren’t too many nice plays.
And no, there was no point at all to this story. It doesn’t tie in to the Celtics, except that Trav congratulated himself like KG did. Frankly, I don’t even know why I included the story. You are all dumber for having read it. I award myself no points, and may God have mercy on my soul.
Back to Garnett, his steady stream of chatter sometimes seems directed at the meek, and the weak, and the ugly. But his defensive communication would make any coach happy. He’s like a defensive quarterback, barking out signals and making sure everyone gets to the right spot. And he works so hard in practice that Doc Rivers asked him to take it easy.
“Almost too good,” the coach said, discussing Garnett’s practice enthusiasm. “That’s Kevin every day. The problem we’re having right now is not having enough guys to sub Kevin in practice and that actually hurts because we need Kevin for the whole year. I told him before practice, I’d like you to not do a lot of the active stuff if you can control yourself, and obviously he couldn’t. That’s just Kevin.”
And the “Good ‘D’, Trav” story?
I guess you just had to be there.