Kevin Garnett is a dick, right? I write that knowing full well he’s played the bad guy for the last five years in Boston, and was similarly antagonistic in Minnesota, except no one watched Minnesota for the last four seasons he was in town. Opposing fans refer to him like Romney supporters refer to Obama: he’s crazy, and not in a good way. Garnett doesn’t do much to dissuade them of this view either, seeming to revel in their antipathy.
He barks a lot on the court, with veins overtly announcing themselves on his sweat-drenched face; he bangs his head against the foam base of his basket’s risers before every game; he’s not against throwing an elbow or two or taking—borderline—cheap shots when he thinks the refs aren’t looking; he says inappropriate and demeaning things on the court to opposing players and teammates; he is so intense during games, even regular season games (the temerity!), it’s not a stretch to say that if an entrenched cubicle worker were to mimic his intensity, employment would be untenable and the worker might even risk institutionalization.
But Kevin Garnett cares about winning, and doesn’t mind sacrificing geniality in order to achieve that goal. He also might be one of the world’s best teammates and a genuinely nice guy, so long as it’s not in the time between an hour before tip-off, and when he leaves the arena.
Here are two Kevin Garnett (yes, that Kevin Garnett) crossovers I’ve posted for no better reason than to help get you hyped for the upcoming NBA season. The clips may be old, but just like Garnett himself, they’ve aged like fine wine (distilled with liquid rabies). Enjoy.
First things first. It’s absolutely fantastic to have the NBA back in our lives. Today’s game at Madison Square Garden between the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks paints a beautiful, gritty picture explaining why. Heading in, both teams had major questions to answer, and both—one would assume—are poised for a bloody battle over the Atlantic Division’s crown. In what will be a new feature coming to Shaky Ankles this season, here are some quick hit points of interest delivered in the always awesome, easily readable bullet point format. Merry Christmas! Read more…
If your enjoyment of basketball as a game runs deep into the whys and hows which explain the tendencies of every player, then you probably love advanced statistics. They exist to explain what’s unexplainable (at first) to the naked eye. They’re both fun to pour over when you’re bored and crucial instruments in deciding the limits of million dollar contract extensions.
The statistic being put under the microscope right now is one rarely—if ever—mentioned on television broadcasts or highlight reels. It’s awkward from the tongue and slightly confusing as to what it specifically constitutes, being that it’s so based on the subjective, but “percent of field goals assisted” (%ast) is underrated in its importance. Read more…
Physically speaking, this shouldn’t happen. A seven-footer shouldn’t have the hand eye coordination to cross anyone up, let alone an NBA All-Star. But this is arguably the league’s most athletic freak ever put together. He was a supreme rebounding Kevin Durant with post moves, better court vision, and defensive ability while the real Kevin Durant was in elementary school. He’s a once in a lifetime player and watching his career come to and end has either been very difficult or filled with vengeance, depending on what side of the fence you’re leaning.
As the Celtics saddle their horses for one final go at a championship with Garnett as their defensive anchor, a small measure of consequence remains on the line. Garnett’s a first ballot Hall of Famer, there’s no denying that. But as a new wave of audacious talent springs itself into the league, ready to take what’s isn’t necessarily theirs before their time has come, can Garnett further reinvent himself and help prop up the Celtics fast closing window? If any player has what it takes inside, it’s him.
Here’s my ode to defense. A collection of scattered, partially contradicting thoughts that come in response to the recently announced NBA All-Defensive team. As these playoffs near an end, with each possession being valued like a rare jewel, watching defense is as equally stirring as offense. Kendrick Perkins banging on the block with Chandler and Haywood, maybe even stepping out to try his luck guarding Dirk and the Mavericks’ previously unsolvable pick and roll; wondering if after chasing Ray Allen for five games in the second round whether Dwyane Wade will have enough energy to not only counter Derrick Rose’s relentless scoring, but directly keep him from doing so; Dallas deciding who they’ll stick on Kevin Durant. All these subplots are fascinating and bring an added layer to the game’s narrative. Because of this and so much more, I decided to give this thankless duty a salute. It’s too important not to. Read more…
Wellp, this is what we all feared: Miami’s grand scheme looks to be aligning just as it was dreamt up between Beijing two-a-days. The Heat are looking dynamic, cohesive, and machine-like in executing their transition game off of turnovers. LeBron’s quietly dominating the postseason and is joined by at least two other teammates in each game. The most notable comrade, of course, is Mr. Wade. Holding an obvious bias towards the Boston Celtics, these two moves felt like vomit inducing knees to the sternum, a la Gary Busey. The first on Kevin Garnett was a perfectly executed Euro/Manu/Rondo/Durant step (but hardly worthy of an obliged touch foul), and the second on Ray was a solid cross, but not so sure it was the only culprit in his slippage—there was a wet spot, even Kenny Smith agrees! The winner of this matchup will take it all. You heard it here first, or maybe for the four dozenth time.
Recently, an article on WEEI.com titled “How Kevin Garnett Became The Most Hated Man In The NBA” was posted. The nature of its content needs no explanation, and to both Boston Celtic and No. 5 fans, the title shouldn’t make any jaws drop or cause any aghast reactions. Kevin Garnett is obviously disliked. This year he’s been blasted through every form of media broadcasting, including Twitter, and deservedly so. These are just a few of the charges directed his way: hitting a man in the groin, calling someone a cancer patient, cursing out a movie director, and throwing the sharpest elbows this side of Cutco around with the recklessness of a toddler. There’s no excuse for the behavior, and as a Celtics fan it’s very difficult to imagine how I’d feel about all the extracurricular activity if he played for Orlando or Dallas. But as the years go on and unending arguments are settled via statistics—the numbers that don’t pick a side—Kevin Garnett won’t be remembered as a dirty player.
He’s not a sick and twisted individual (Reggie Evans) or someone who needed to play the game just beyond a fringe of the rules in order to stay afloat (Bruce Bowen). This is who he is: The face of a revamped, historically great franchise; a transcendental high-school phenom turned 100 million dollar posterboy; and a first ballot Hall of Famer with near unparalleled dominance on the defensive end. He’s been selected to 14 all-star games which is tied with Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, and Jerry West for third most in league history. That’s more than Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Tim Duncan, Larry Bird, and Wilt Chamberlain, and exactly twice as many selections as Scottie Pippen, Kevin McHale, and Steve Nash. His 2003-04 season was one of the finest the NBA’s ever seen. Ultimately this is what the name Kevin Garnett will bear in 20 years.
But Garnett has had controversy surround him for the past 10 years. Remember Anthony Peeler? Or the bazookas? Or this? If he’s been doing this his entire career, why all the vitriol now? He really wasn’t hated until he became a Celtic and won a championship. While in Minnesota, Garnett was viewed as a high strung, intensely wired basketball player. Right now, suffice it to say, he’s an instigator. There’s no questioning that. The way he burrows under the skin of an opponent like a ring worm only helps his team win, and the more power to him. Garnett’s able to get away with all that he does because of the game’s current culture. There are no tough guys, no sheriffs who lead by force, no intimidating bullies. No Charles Oakley or Anthony Mason or Rick Mahorn. The league doesn’t allow that type of play and so the Celtics starting power forward takes advantage.
Kevin Garnett is one of the 20 greatest basketball players to ever play and one of the five most competitive. With his career winding down to maybe two more seasons of quality play left (barring injury. Any game could be his last), we’ve seen Garnett push himself towards a level of emotion that’s veering on blackout. To a casual observer watching Garnett for the first time, they’d say he’s a punk cheap-shot artist, and they’d be right. But to those who’ve witnessed him from the start, the frustrating years in Minnesota, the painful and sad realization that he’d have to leave the only team he ever knew in order to find the true success he’s always deserved, and the darkest of dark offseasons he might never fully recover from, Kevin Garnett isn’t dirty or hateful. He’s misunderstood. The memorable ones usually are.
Of North America’s four major sport leagues, no All-Star game is more widely anticipated, talked about, attended, or, frankly, marvelous than basketball’s. With the dunk contest’s reemergence as something worth a decent conversation, this year’s megaton bomb of a location (star studded Los Angeles for the first time since 2004), and, if I had a final decision, the overall level of talent level would boast at least eight living, breathing first ballot Hall of Fame inductees.
Tonight at 7 pm on TNT, the NBA’s 2010-11 All-Star starters will be revealed. Unfortunately, thanks to fan voting updates, there isn’t any suspense, much less speculation, about which 10 players will be on the court for Feb. 20′s inaugural tip. But on Feb. 3, TNT will fill out each side’s lineup with 14 players who the league’s coaches have decided are most worthy. This is the one worth watching. It’s centralized league discussion for months and will be analyzed this way and dissected another. How will the Western Conference deal with their backload of talented and deserving forwards? Will Kevin Love make it, appeasing high school basketball coaches and the pro-fundamental crowd? Will Blake Griffin make it, appeasing everyone else? How about LaMarcus Aldridge and his under wraps MVP worthy first half? Will Tim Duncan make it lucky number 13? And for that matter, how many players on the league’s best team (record wise) will receive the due honors that come with winning the most basketball games? Can five Boston Celtics fill out the Eastern Conference’s seven bench spots? (It’s technically possible.) Does Raymond Felton make the Most Improved Player award discussion a bit more lively by putting a first nod on his resume? Will all the centers be ignored?
These questions are answerless, but they capture in a nutshell why everything that surrounds the All-Star game is more fun than the actual contest. All the hoopla and hype, the incessant debates in barbershops, bars, and sidelines of a pickup game, all the talk is what makes All-Star weekend, in my opinion, the most special exhibition event in the world. So without further ado, today I’ll be writing who I think should round out the Eastern Conference’s squad. Tomorrow I’ll do the West.
First let’s get the likely starters out of the way. These 10 players, with the exception of the West’s center, are the current fan vote leaders.
East: PG-Derrick Rose, SG-Dwyane Wade, SF-LeBron James, PF-Amare Stoudemire, C-Dwight Howard
West: PG-Chris Paul, SG-Kobe Bryant, SF-Carmelo Anthony, PF-Kevin Durant, C-Tim Duncan (Replacing the injured Yao Ming)
There should be no real beef with anything selected here—besides Rose starting over Rondo, which defines nitpicking, but in an All-Star atmosphere, the league’s best passer might make for a more entertaining floor general. Regardless, 60 percent of these starters will end up in the Hall someday; three of the 10 being first ballots even if they e-mailed their retirement papers today. Now finally, onto the backups…
First Guard: Rajon Rondo. In full disclosure, he’s my favorite player. So far this season he’s cut the head off of the chicken or egg argument about whether it’s Rondo who makes the Big Three go or the Big Three who make Rondo’s crazy assist numbers look easy. It’s clear he’s lengthening the other four starter’s careers (especially Shaq and Pierce) with impeccable vision, an uncanny ability to handle the ball and control the game’s offensive and defensive tempo, and more raw athleticm than any point guard in the league. Rondo’s attitude on the court is one that screams “I’m the greatest!” and his league leading 12.9 assists per game proves it. Also, despite the general public continuing to believe Rondo can’t shoot, he can. I’m serious. From 16-23 feet, he’s 46 percent from the field. Same as Deron Williams and Steve Nash, who surprisingly attempt just 0.3 more shots from that distance per game than Rondo. No mention of free throws here! It’s all love!
Second Guard: Ray Allen. The chapter of Ray Allen’s career where he’s able to create his own shots and get where he wants dribbling the basketball are over. Finito. But at 36, he’s arguably shooting the ball better than ever before. Allen’s true shooting percentage (63), field goal percentage (51), and three-point percentage (45) are all career highs (by the time All-Star weekend rolls around, he’ll have passed Reggie Miller as the NBA’s all-time leader in three pointers made) and after watching him run circles around guys 10 years younger, 36 minutes a night through 44 games—he’s yet to sit one out—it’s astonishing to think how much longer Ray Allen can play professional basketball at such a high level.
First Forward: Kevin Garnett. In a late January regular season loss to Orlando last season, then Magic starter Rashard Lewis took an inbound from the wing to the basket, making Kevin Garnett look like a rusty screen door, laying in the winning bucket with 1.3 seconds left. It was like watching a Roman gladiator refuse to leave the battfield even though his right leg is dangling from his hip by a thread. But imagine if that Roman gladiator had access to the finest in modern medicine, arthroscopic surgery, and months of mental and physical rehabilitation to avenge the most painful loss of his life (Game 7). This is roughly what that would translate to:
He’s playing the same fiery defense he put on display in 2007-08 while continuing on as one of the best shooting forwards in the game. Kevin Garnett is an indisputable lock at this spot.
Second Forward: Paul Pierce. Noticing a pattern? The Boston Celtics are the Eastern Conference’s best team and they’ve been playing without their starting center. While the previous three players are irreplaceable in what they do to make Boston’s system thrive, Paul Pierce is arguably the most important piece. I won’t go into too much detail right now because (SPOILER ALERT!!) I’m putting a little mid-season MVP list together, but speaking as someone who has watched a vast majority of games Paul Pierce has played in, this season has to be one of his most impressive. He still has an ability to average 25-28 points per game—if he really wanted to ruin Boston’s flow—and at 33, he remains near the top in terms of players who can’t be guarded one on one. His name still gets lost in the national stage’s shuffle, but he’s right there with the best of them at getting the shot he wants when the clock’s winding down.
Center: Shaqu—just joking!—Al Horford. The definition of a key asset. He’s the best mid-range shooting center in the game and it’s not even close (including Bargnani) and even though he plays undersized at the five every night, Horford is a solid low post defender and has notched 22 doubles, nine of them with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. He also plays through injury and at only 24 is one of the league’s more determined competitors. Now, here are two hypotheticals for you. If Horford and former Gator teammate Joakim Noah were to switch teams at the beginning of the season, would that have changed LeBron’s mind about joining Rose in Chicago? I don’t think it would, but it’s an interesting question. And number two, would the Bulls pull the plug or the trigger on a deal involving Carmelo if they had Horford to give up instead of Noah? Here, I think they would’ve made the deal.
First Wild Card: Chris Bosh. After one of the best seasons of his career, Chris Bosh is statistically having one of his worst, but that was to be expected—did you know he’s playing with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade now?!? He’s posted 15 double doubles in 42 starts compared to 49 in 70 last season. Bosh’s rebounds, points, and minutes are slightly down, but surprisingly, he’s only taking two fewer shots per game. I’ve never been a Chris Bosh guy. Maybe it’s his physical ineptitude on defense (in exactly half of his games this season, Bosh has logged either one or two fouls) or just the overall flair to what could be a more imposing post presence. Or maybe this is why. Either way, he’s averaging 19 and eight and plays for the most talked about team in the league, so he’s in.
Second Wild Card: Raymond Felton. While people talk about what a great job Felton’s done making Amare forget about Steve Nashty, I say look at what a poor job Charlotte did giving this guy an opportunity to run a successful team. Grabbing Amare Stoudemire isn’t exactly picking up Oreos from the supermarket, but Felton only had two 20 point per game scorers during his five years in Charlotte: Jason Richardson in 2007-08 and Stephen Jackson last year. Statistics aside, because we all know the inflation that comes with the system he’s in, Raymond’s been steady for the Knicks, with a few cold streaks mixed into some dreamy performances (the 20 point, 12 assist, five steal Christmas Day showdown against Derrick Rose comes to mind). He’s shooting the ball more, and better, than he ever has in his career, all while serving as his team’s number two offensive option. Felton hasn’t been spectacular this year, but he’s been overachieving under the bright lights. Sometimes that’s enough to get your first All-Star invite.
And with that, tomorrow comes the West.