Perhaps the story best illustrates Kevin Garnett as a man, or at least as a teammate. Perhaps it paints a picture of Garnett which has far more clarity than the caricature that has him cussing, throwing elbows, and tapping unsuspecting opponents beneath the belt.
When Kendrick Perkins was traded away, Garnett became emotional, calling it “a tough day” and looking as if someone had run over his dog. The next day, Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green joined the Celtics. Instantly, Garnett became their leader.
“All credit goes to Kevin,” Krstic told CSNNE.com of his fast start. “He’s accepted me from first day. KG has been like a mentor to me; on the court, showing me all the plays. Even on the court, he talks, helps me get in the right position on defense. He has been great to me.”
Just as Garnett was great to Perkins, who once said he scowled so often because it’s tough to smile while trying to win alongside Kevin Garnett. Thinking about the arc of Perk’s career, one wonders how major a role Garnett played in his development. Was Perk always destined to become one of the league’s finest stoppers, or did he quickly become so valuable after teaming with Garnett? It’s difficult to quantify how Garnett aided Perkins, but the advice of a savvy, 14-time All-Star can never hurt. If you place a good sheep with the right shepherd, that sheep shall never stray.
Garnett has a way of taking players under his wing and offering them guidance. If a player listens, Garnett will teach him everything he knows — which, considering that Garnett has become one of the best positional defenders in NBA history, is a very expansive encyclopedia of knowledge. If a player does not listen, Garnett casts him aside as garbage. Garnett, quite literally, will not speak to teammates who lack a thirst for knowledge, to teammates unwilling to improve themselves through simple listening. If a player does not want Garnett’s knowledge, Garnett assumes, that player does not strive for excellence. And thus, he will waste no time or words on that player.
But Krstic and Green do want an infusion of Garnett’s expertise; they want his mentality to permeate into their own skin, as if by osmosis. They want to know what Kevin Garnett knows, which is to say they want a crash course in the finer points of basketball and teamwork, loyalty and selflessness, hard work and winning spirit.
“Kevin, his energy falls on others and I want it to fall on me,” Green told CSNNE.com.
Hardly could Green have spoken a more telling statement. Green now sits in the locker stall next to Garnett, and he knows one of the league’s best resources sits right by his side. The new Celtics have gotten lucky, to be ushered into such a great situation — where a leader wants to lift them upwards, where a team wants only to win a championship, where Doc Rivers needs their help.
In a new city with more pressure and higher expectations, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic should keep their ears open and their eyes wide. Kevin Garnett’s energy is falling, and they wouldn’t want to miss it.