*Breathes deep sigh of relief.*
*Jumps up and down like an eight-year old boy with a severe case of ADD.*
*Thanks God, even though He may or may not care about basketball.*
The preceding actions made up my thought process during last night’s game. I started the game nervous about seeing KG’s gait, mostly because the Celtics’ success (or lack thereof) ultimately relies on his health. I ended the game like a giddy kid who’d just visited Disney World for the first time, and couldn’t stop shaking with excitement after riding The Tower of Terror and getting Mickey Mouse’s autograph. Kevin Garnett was back, and, far more importantly, he’s healthy.
KG was brilliant, in his normal “understated-yet-overstated” way. I know the previous sentence makes no sense, so I’ll now attempt to explain my moronic ramblings. Understated, because he scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds, stats that are nothing more than average for a starting power forward. Overstated, because he quite visibly affected every aspect of the game, right up until the Magic’s final real chance, when KG’s right arm swooped into the passing lane to steal Jameer Nelson’s pass.
I could tell you what Garnett’s return did for the Celtics, but it would take thousands of words and ultimately bore you to death. I could tell you what Garnett failed to do, but I’d be hard-pressed to find anything. Instead, I’ll lead you to Paul Pierce, who explains what Garnett’s presence means. (Boston Herald)
“I mean, I said to somebody else that we look like a totally different team out there just with Kevin on the court,” said Pierce. “You can’t replace what Kevin gives to a ball club. He doesn’t always show up with his numbers, but his presence and his feel for the game and everything he does for this team goes far beyond the numbers, and you see it tonight. We look like a team who is ready, who is energized, who is locked in, and, you know, that’s the culture he’s brought here since Day 1. He raises everybody’s level of play when he’s on the court.”
Pierce tells the truth (or The Truth, if you will): “That’s the culture [Garnett has] brought here since Day 1. He raises everybody’s level of play when he’s on the court.”
Pierce’s comment also marks his own admission: Garnett brings a mentality Pierce himself never did, and still doesn’t. Garnett’s intensity and unselfishness have changed Boston’s culture, and his presence — in that way — surpasses anything Pierce has done. This isn’t to belittle Pierce, of course. He’s a marvelous player who has carried Boston through tough times, and continues to be a cornerstone to everything the Celtics do. But Garnett, even according to Pierce himself, changed the culture in Boston.
I often think back to a story I heard in the fall of 2007, shortly after the Big Three joined forces. If you’ve heard me describe this story before, well, I apologize. It’s just the best example of the way Garnett changes everything, including things that don’t show up in a box score or even directly affect a game.
It was a training camp practice, and Doc Rivers instructed his players to run sprints. As most normal human beings do, Pierce slightly loafed the sprints. It’s only human nature to take it easy when there’s no timer on you, so I’m not blaming Pierce. But Garnett wasn’t going to let that shit slide.
Never mind that Garnett was new to town. Never mind that this was Pierce’s team, and Garnett ran the risk of stepping on The Truth’s toes. Never mind that Garnett is also human (I think), and I wouldn’t have blamed him one bit for half-assing the sprints himself. Garnett wasn’t going to let his teammate give anything less than full effort. No way. Not when he could smell a championship and every detail, he knew, would help his team win the title.
Garnett stepped up to Pierce and verbally blasted him. That lazy shit wasn’t happening. Not anymore. Not with Garnett in town. There’s a saying that goes like this: “It’s not the mountain ahead to climb that wears you down; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” Garnett wasn’t going to let Pierce’s sprinting habits become a pebble in his shoe.
When I think of Kevin Garnett, I remember Gerry Bertier from Remember the Titans. I know, the comparison isn’t perfect. They play two different sports. They’re two different skin colors. Garnett walks without the use of a wheelchair and does not (if I’m properly informed) have an utterly racist girlfriend who refuses to shake the hand of Garnett’s teammates. Garnett hasn’t (to my knowledge) kicked his own friend off the Boston Celtics because his friend refused to block for Rev.
Despite the differences, when I think of Kevin Garnett, I think of Denzel Washington (aka Coach Boone) addressing the press:
“You cannot replace a Gerry Bertier. As a player, a person…”
For the Boston Celtics, that’s KG.