Kevin Garnett has reached a point in his career where practices, no matter how rare, should be immediately followed by ice baths, acupuncture and a desperate search for the fountain of youth. Instead, Garnett returned to the court after yesterday’s session just to help Ryan Hollins, the 27-year old journeymen the Celtics signed as an insurance policy in case another big man gets injured. (MetroWest Daily News)
Garnett drilled the youngster, taking him through a series of back-down post moved in which he banged him in the chest and thrust him off balance. Garnett then took off his sneakers to use as props in a post-play demonstration, and proceeded to go through the next 15 minutes of drills in socks with brace around one ankle, while Hollins maintained the high tops.
Garnett prodded Hollins, chided him at times, and swore up a storm. He challenged him to reach deep within himself for that little extra as he tired, and flicked him in the face, stomach – and below the stomach – as he shared some of the tricks you learn while plying you trade for 16 years.
At every turn, Hollins nodded, thanked Garnett for the advice, and asked for more even if there were parts of him desperate to leave the court after two hours of workouts.
Hollins has accomplished very little during his NBA career, earning a reputation as an underachiever because his stats — especially rebounding — don’t match his physical tools. Yet during the lockout, he became close with Paul Pierce and Garnett during pickup games, and when the Cleveland Cavaliers bought out Hollins’ contract, both Celtics veterans encouraged Danny Ainge to give Hollins a call.
This is important because Pierce and Garnett rarely take kindly to underachieving youngsters, at least on their own team. They see something more in Hollins, something underneath his miserable rebounding rate and unrefined offensive repertoire. It also indicates that Pierce and Garnett feel that Hollins can fit in with the Celtics locker room, and perhaps even begin to harness his formidable size and athleticism, which have already resulted in a couple highlight reel alley-oops from Rajon Rondo.
But this story isn’t about Hollins so much as it is about Garnett. Seventeen years into his NBA career, Garnett is willing to follow a practice by stripping to his socks and putting a fellow big man through drills. Never mind that Hollins could very well receive a DNP-CD when the Celtics meet the San Antonio Spurs tonight. Never mind that even if Hollins plays, it probably won’t be for more than four or five minutes. Garnett doesn’t care if it’s a superstar, bench warmer, scrub or mascot — if any of his teammates is willing to accept advice, Garnett will do whatever he can to help.
When Kobe Bryant retires, the main image I will recall about his practice habits will be the time when he stayed in the Miami Heat’s arena after a game to practice jump shots all by himself. When Kevin Garnett retires, I’ll recall the time he slid around the court in socks because Ryan Hollins wanted to work on his drop step. The juxtaposed memories seem so appropriately telling.