ISTANBUL – Kevin Garnett has been able to blend his vintage focus and intensity with a welcoming and delightful attitude during training camp, and that was on display Wednesday afternoon here during the Celtics’ three-hour workout.
He got into a brief shoving match that involved teammate Dionte Christmas near the end of intense scrimmages, a moment when he appeared half serious. Moments later, as the final scrimmage went to overtime and a throng of Turkish media were allowed into the arena to watch the final few minutes, he drained one of his customary midrange jumpers to seal victory for the Green team over the White.
Garnett held his release hand high in the air after making the basket and slapped hands with all of his teammates. Later, he stretched on the floor as his teammates conducted interviews, and he even entertained a Turkish television crew for a one-on-one instead of whisking it away. And he then addressed the full media group, even taking one of the recorders away from a local reporter and jokingly using it as a microphone.
When asked whether he is planning to hand the team leadership over to point guard Rajon Rondo, Garnett said, “The key’s been handed over to 9. He’s been in a position to where we’ve encouraged him, we taught him how to lead. And I think he’s taken an onus on himself to do it not just by talking but by example. And we support him not only as a teammate but as a friend.”
Garnett said he will play center this season if coach Doc Rivers wants, which probably will be the case given the team’s success during the second half of last season.
“Obviously [power forward] is where my heart is, [center] is not something I look forward to, but it’s what it is,” he said. “I never shied away from anything on the basketball court and I won’t start. I enjoy playing basketball with the new guys, being here. As long as I’m on the floor, that’s all that matters.”
Garnett usually brushes off questions about his future, and he marveled last week at how team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge enticed him to sign a three-year contract. He was asked whether it will be his final deal.
“With modern medicine and my pay scale . . . I’m joking,” he said. “I have no idea. Don’t matter if it’s your first [year] or 18th or whatever, you’re still learning, still in the position to mess up, [chasing] your goals and going so fast at certain times. But I’m very fortunate. Still having fun, still enjoying things.”
Mind on home
Rivers was asked several questions about Friday’s opponent, Fenerbache Ulker, which is expected to compete for a Euro League title. Rivers said he won’t treat the game as some showdown between NBA and Euro League powers.
“They’re a really good team, I don’t know a lot about them,” Rivers said. “Even if it was a game we were playing the Knicks tomorrow, we wouldn’t talk about the Knicks because it’s the preseason. In preseason, the way I coach, I rarely bring up the other team. I just focus on our stuff. Our goal is to be ready for opening night.”
Fenerbache Ulker features a couple of familiar names, including former Xavier guard Romain Sato, ex-Long Beach State forward Michael Batiste, and former University of New Orleans point guard Lester McCalebb, who drew the interest of the San Antonio Spurs before signing a three-year contract with Fenerbache.
Wilcox sits out
Chris Wilcox sat out with back spasms, but he was jogging the sidelines with teammate Avery Bradley. Wilcox is day-to-day . . . Three Celtics, including Christmas and Darko Milicic, slipped on the slick court and took ugly tumbles, but every player came out of practice healthy . . . The Celtics return to practice in the same location Thursday morning at 11 local time before lunch and an NBA Cares event in the afternoon . . . Micah Downs was icing his left shoulder and Rob Kurz was receiving treatment on his right ankle following practice.