He will be missed!
D'Alessandro: In Kevin Garnett, the Nets now have a leader they can follow anywhere
Brooklyn power forward Kevin Garnett, the leader for a Nets team that didn't always have one By The Star-Ledger
You can probably think of a dozen reasons why Kevin Garnett is a valuable NBA commodity, but one anecdote illustrates why his mere presence could be a team’s greatest asset.
The story goes back to his earliest days with the Celtics, when a reporter asked KG whether a certain player – rumored to be on his way to Boston in a trade – could play on his team as presently constructed.
“Yeah, he can play with this team,” Garnett said after a moment’s reflection and a few strokes of his beard. “But if he doesn’t play defense, no one will be allowed to talk to him.” Unquote. He wasn’t smiling when he said it, which figures, because there is almost nothing about this game that Garnett finds amusing. And when it comes to standards, he isn’t so much demanding as he is uncompromising.
He sets the rules for every room he walks into, and if you happen to be a Brooklyn booster, this should be given the same value as the 15 points and eight rebounds he’ll probably give you at the age of 37. Garnett will not provide the tangible numbers that earned him MVP and Defensive Player of the Year trophies – only three others have ever done that, by the way – but that is not why the Nets made this deal and inflated their payroll to perhaps the most absurd extreme in sports history.
Ruling by example, by absorption, and by intimidation is the greatest service Garnett will perform for this team. It would be true of any team he plays for, but especially this one, which has a new head coach who isn’t exactly keen on verbal confrontation – and if you followed Jason Kidd’s tenure as captain, you’ll know what we’re talking about here.
So everyone shut up and have a seat, because the real leader has just entered the building.
Tim Hardaway was up at Knicks headquarters Friday to introduce his son, and he nailed it right away:
“Now he really don’t have to coach,” he said of the guy coaching the Brooklyn Celtics. “He’s got guys out there that can coach themselves. All he’s got to do is just go out there and make sure they run an offense, make sure they’re playing defense. They’re going to police themselves.”
You cannot overstate the value of that.
The game on the NBA level is mostly about alchemy. Every team has talent. Every team has a smart coaching staff. And every team has knuckleheads with agendas who undermine the talent and smart coach.
The team that has the guy who gets everyone to embrace the coach’s vision is usually the one that wins. It’s about buy-in and commitment, and having one guy who grabs his teammates and pulls them back in line when they start to wander.
We’ve never seen an athlete of any kind do this like Garnett can do it.
“He is what I call a Total Impact Player – he impacts your team culture on the floor, your team professionalism off the floor, and enhances the degree of loyalty of your fans,” said old friend Dave Wohl, who helped bring Garnett to Boston as the Celtics’ assistant GM in 2007.
He explained how KG would set the standards so high, teammates were afraid to be exposed as a weak link, and that included “how to work, how to conduct yourself, how to prepare and how hard to play, day after day.”
“He had only one agenda – winning,” Wohl concluded. “The guy didn’t care about his stats at all. And in the age of tweets, you never heard him criticize a player, coach or the organization. If he had something to say, he said it to your face.”
This is why we like this deal. Sure, Paul Pierce is still formidable, and if you were facing a win-or-drop proposition, there are but a handful of players you’d hand the ball to ahead of him.
But we place more value on what Big Ticket (still the best nickname in sports, authored by Kevin Harlan) brings to your team’s ethos. The short version: You’re not preparing for a game as much as a gang fight. And you’re either in his corner, or you’re toast.
Sure, sometimes it’s manic stuff, over the top. We still can’t forget the visual captured by ESPN during the 2010 postseason, when KG came to the bench at a particularly emotional moment in a game against Orlando, his eyes ablaze, and his lips spitting these words at Rasheed Wallace:
“Put a bullet in these. . . .” he screamed. “Put a bullet in these….”
His own eyes fixed on the scoreboard, Sheed looked as comfortable as someone who just wandered into downtown Damascus.
But that’s KG, and the Nets undoubtedly know what they’re getting.
Any team that earmarks $93 million for nine players -- plus another $84M in luxury tax – has probably lost its grip on reality anyway. But at least it had the sense to invest in the one guy who can get the most out of the other eight.