NBA PM: Garnett Finds Fountain of Youth
During the lockout, Kevin Garnett was working out in Los Angeles. Every day, he would make his way to the gym and take on players nearly half his age, from Ricky Rubio to John Wall to Paul George. As he is every summer, Garnett was always the most intense player on the floor and took every game seriously. Rather than letting the next wave of NBA stars run circles around him, Garnett took over, scoring the ball, blocking shots, pounding his chest and screaming at the top of his lungs.
Even at 36 years old, Garnett hasn’t changed. He’s still able to dominate on both ends of the floor, as he’s reminding everyone this postseason. This is his seventeenth season in the NBA, but he’s still putting up huge numbers and leading the Boston Celtics to wins. Thanks in large part to Garnett, the Celtics are one victory away from reaching the NBA Finals for the third time since acquiring him.
“He’s our life,” Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said. “I mean, he really is. He just does so many things that don’t have numbers to it. A lot of it is with his voice. He’s, in a strange way, a calming effect on some of our guys, if you can ever call Kevin that. He really is. He’s just been terrific for us.”
While some of Garnett’s contributions aren’t quantifiable, the stats also show just how impressive Garnett has been during the playoffs. Garnett’s plus/minus is currently +164, which is the highest of any player in the postseason. After averaging just 15.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and one block during the regular season, Garnett’s numbers have increased to 19.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in the playoffs. Garnett had just seven 20-point, 10-rebound games in the regular season. In the playoffs, he has nine.
“You’re finally seeing a healthy Kevin,” Paul Pierce said. “He hasn’t been healthy the last couple of years. When you have a surgery of that magnitude, it’s tough on a big man. It looks like he’s has healthy legs. He’s playing long minutes. He’s giving everything he can.”
“It’s right up there with the first year when he came, when he was 20‑10 every night in the playoffs and just dominating,” Pierce said. “We’re taking advantage of him. We’re giving him the ball in the spots where he can score. He’s rebounding and playing good defense. He’s doing everything we’re asking of him.”
When asked what motivates him after 17 years in the league, Garnett didn’t hesitate.
“Naysayers,” Garnett said. “The people who don’t think a 36-year-old can do what I do. I take a lot of pride in my craft. I work really hard on my craft every day. I’m a true professional.”
Throughout this postseason, Garnett has had to step up and carry more of the scoring load since Pierce is battling a knee injury and Ray Allen has bone spurs in his ankle. With Pierce and Allen banged up, Garnett has been taking more shots and leading the Celtics’ offense. In Game 5, Garnett led Boston in points (26) and rebounds (11). The Celtics have won 10 of its last 13 games in which Garnett leads the team in both statistical categories.
“Nothing is easy,” Garnett added. “We do it together. We don’t do it individually. When we do, we look bad. When we do it together, we look pretty darn good.”
One reason for Garnett’s recent dominance is his preparation. During the postseason, Garnett often jokes that he doesn’t have a life since he goes back and forth from his home to the gym, watching film at both locations. He’s able to study the opposition and make adjustments from game-to-game. While some players struggle with the playoff schedule, Garnett thrives during this time because he’s usually one step ahead of his opponent.
“You have the time to prepare, and you know a lot of the different plays,” Garnett said. “You know the other team, what they want to do, what they ate for breakfast, what they ate for dinner.”
While Garnett’s offense has been extremely impressive during the postseason, he makes an even bigger impact on the other end of the court. Ask anyone in the Boston locker room and they’ll tell you just how important Garnett is for the Celtics on the defensive end.
“Kevin is our best defender, that’s not a secret,” Rajon Rondo said. “When he’s out there, obviously our pluses are a lot better. He does so many little things on the floor as far as helping on everyone. He’s our best communicator. He’s our best defensive rebounder. He does it all.”
“He’s overlooked so much defensively,” Rivers said. “The talking, the orchestration of our D on the floor, it’s so important to have a guy like Kevin. I think that gets overlooked a lot. He’s the best I’ve ever seen.”
Garnett has turned back the clock this postseason, delivering on a consistent basis and putting up impressive numbers. However, none of that will matter if the Celtics don’t advance to the Finals and win the championship. The only thing that matters to Garnett is winning games, whether he’s playing in a Los Angeles fitness center in September or playing on basketball’s biggest stage in June.
Olshey Excited for Blazers’ Big Offseason: The Portland Trail Blazers have everything they need to build a contending team. LaMarcus Aldridge is the face of the franchise and one of the best power forwards in the league. Nic Batum is also part of the team’s plan moving forward and will likely be re-signed. This summer, the Blazers have two lottery picks (#6 and #11) in the upcoming draft and about $12 million in cap space, assuming the team makes qualifying offers to both Batum and J.J. Hickson.
Portland struggled last season, but with the right moves, this team could be back in the postseason in no time. With two lottery picks and tons of money to spend, all eyes will on the Blazers this summer.
The franchise’s first move was hiring new general manager Neil Olshey, who turned the Los Angeles Clippers into a contender last summer. Olshey worked his magic during last year’s condensed free agency period, adding Chris Paul, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups and DeAndre Jordan in a six-day span. He also added Nick Young, Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin later on. Olshey knows how to turn a lottery team around and he’s looking forward to this offseason.
“I think the organization is in a really great position,” Olshey said. “It takes a lot of time and effort, we did it a few years ago, to have all three elements converging at once. Two lottery picks, cap room and flexibility with your own and other free agents. As those things converge, as long we make the right decisions in the draft and in free agency, I think we can accelerate our curve to where we want to go.”
Olshey made it clear that he’s trying to “retool” rather than “rebuild.” He wants to sign players who will be productive for years to come, not a bunch of veterans who are only short-term solutions.
“Anybody we’re going to pursue, in terms of major additions, is going to need to be somebody who is going to be here long-term, that we can build with,” Olshey said. “I want to make it clear that we’re not looking for quick fixes,” Olshey said. “We’re not looking for aging veterans that can slide us into the eighth spot and then we’re right back here in a year trying to figure out what to do.”
The Blazers have a ton of flexibility this summer and Olshey can’t wait to start making moves. Shortly after getting the job, he started watching film of draft prospects in Portland’s range. He has also been in contact with Aldridge and Batum, as well as their agents. Olshey is living every general manager’s dream, with two top picks and plenty of money to spend. He understands the importance of this summer and how his moves will make or break the future of the franchise.
“This is a seminal moment in the future of the Trail Blazers,” Olshey said. “We need to handle it properly.”
Inside Game 5: Here are some news and notes from last night’s Heat-Celtics game.
• Since assembling the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2008, the Celtics haven’t lost a Game 5 when a series is tied, 2-2. They are 9-0 in these games, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
• The HEAT now trail the Celtics, 3-2, and are facing elimination. LeBron James has trailed 3-2 in a best-of-seven series four times in his postseason career and each time his team went on to lose the series, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
• Rajon Rondo recorded 11 assists in Game 5, which is his 39th career playoff game with 10 or more assists, passing Bob Cousy for most in Celtics’ history, according to Elias.
• LeBron James scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but only handed out two assists in the loss to the Celtics. It was James’ 21st 30-point/10-rebound playoff game, but the first in which he failed to register at least three assists, according to Elias.
• The Celtics won 94-90 at Miami despite being outrebounded 49-39. According to Elias, it was the first time Boston won a road playoff game despite losing the rebound battle by double digits since Memorial Day, 1988. The Celtics beat the Pistons 79-78 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the Pontiac Silverdome despite grabbing 11 fewer rebounds than Detroit.