Kevin Garnett has rarely dunked the basketball this season, but he caught a pass in the middle of the lane during last night’s second half and the rim looked to be his next foe. Two or three years ago, maybe even last season, Garnett would have risen into the stratosphere, cocked his arms back, ripped a two-handed dunk through the hoop and then beat his chest like a drum while spewing profanity for the next few seconds.
But last night, Garnett lofted a giant killer over the outstretched arms of Serge Ibaka. The shot went in, and in a way it was beautiful, a seven-footer with the finesse of a point guard, lofting a tear drop that scrape the retired numbers before falling into the hoop. But the shot was also the latest evidence that Garnett simply doesn’t have the power or explosion we’ve come to expect, doesn’t have the lift to take advantage of players he once abused.
After the game, John Hollinger said we can’t blame Kendrick Perkins for the Boston debacle that has now resulted in five straight losses, nor can we blame Danny Ainge. One person should shoulder the weight of blame, and he’s the same person noted for changing Boston’s culture and hanging a 17th championship banner in TD Garden. (ESPN)
And that, in a nutshell, is the story behind the 2011-12 Celtics. Garnett, the linchpin of one of the best defensive teams in NBA history over the past four seasons, can’t get off the ground, and it’s affecting his game at every level. Monday night he used 25 possessions to produce 12 points, with several close-in shots providing particularly poignant reminders. One close-in flip that would have been a dunk two years ago went in, but another was instead rejected by Serge Ibaka.
Last season, Garnett made a staggering impact defensively. Boston gave up 6.19 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the court than off it, and the Celtics already were among the league’s best defensive teams without him. According to basketballvalue.com, only one player — Chicago’s Ronnie Brewer — had opponents score less when he was on the court than Garnett’s 97.84 points per 100 possessions.
Kevin Garnett’s leaping ability, and impact on D, are starting to wane.
This season, Garnett is nowhere to be found on that leaderboard; Boston gives up the same amount whether he’s on the court or off it, even though his replacement is normally the defensive suspect Brandon Bass.
There’s just no power to Garnett’s game anymore. Every move he makes is ginger. He drop steps in the low post and loses balance before lofting an ugly fade away jumper. He lofts runners over Serge Ibaka. He taps rebounds with one hand because he can’t secure them with two. Maybe even more telling than any other play last night, Garnett was blocked on a jump shot last night by Nick Collison. Garnett NEVER used to get his jump shots blocked, but now Collison — not a bad player by any means, but certainly not an elite athlete — is capable of rejecting Garnett’s once-untouchable fade away.
I’m one of Garnett’s biggest fans. He’s one of the greatest two-way players ever. He remains as responsible or more responsible for Boston’s latest championship than anybody. His name will always be one I remember fondly. But the drop he’s taken from May until now is incredible, and it kills me to admit that Hollinger’s right.
There are other problems in Boston, but KG’s precipitous fall hurts them in every aspect.