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Garnett embraces this All-Star break

Kevin Garnett hopes to find a shot of rejuvenation during All-Star weekend. Kevin Garnett hopes to find a shot of rejuvenation during All-Star weekend. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)
By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / February 13, 2010

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DALLAS - There is a fantasy-land feeling to the NBA All-Star proceedings. Tomorrow’s game is the one contest on the league schedule that has nothing at stake, so players are greeting each other like friends and teammates, instead of opponents. Everyone is allowed to get out of their routine. And this is just what Kevin Garnett believes he needs at this time of year.

“When you come to All-Star, this is the time for you to sort of step out of reality, versus still being dismal, still being down,’’ Garnett said yesterday. “All-Star weekend, for players, is for them to sort of rejuvenate themselves; gives you a chance to sort of tone down the volume, if you will, a chance to enjoy other guys, peers, interact, get out and do some different things with family, friends. It’s the one time you can call a break a break. You sort of come out of reality a little bit here.’’

Garnett has lost some of his ebullience and sense of invincibility as he adjusts from offseason knee surgery while the Celtics struggle on the court. The idea is to regenerate and recapture the optimism that has fueled the Celtics since the 2007-08 season.

“My health, it’s great, I’m happy to be here,’’ Garnett said. “I’m playing in the game. I’m not sitting up here and making this weekend about my leg and my health. There’s two other [Celtics] here, I’m going to root for Paul [Pierce] in the 3-point contest - interact, hanging out, it’s always good to see Chauncey [Billups], chop it up with LeBron [James], Joe Johnson, Dwyane [Wade], some old guys, Paul and [Rajon] Rondo, and see some young guys, their first time; see [Zach Randolph], how nervous they look.’’

Garnett had avoided surgery until a bone spur in his left knee became too large to ignore last February. The experience awakened Garnett to his vulnerability and having to confront a different type of adversity caused him to reflect.

“I’m good,’’ Garnett said. “When you get new things, new revelations come into your life, it makes you stronger. I might have acquired some patience, understanding, knowing my body, preserving my legs, things of that such. When I work out and when I’m going it’s the same mentality, 100 percent, no different than any player in this league. At this point every other player is banged up, it’s what our league is. It’s challenging, but it’s a good thing.

“Acquiring patience is a good thing. When one thing gets taken away you acquire something else. I’m a lot more patient when it comes to attacking. Film session, I’m a lot more detailed on footwork and small things, pick settings, range where I’m setting picks, small things I never paid attention to. So, though I probably lost something in one area, or depleted, I picked it up in other ways. It hasn’t stopped me from being a presence. I probably can’t jump as high but when it comes to defense I’m smarter, I feel like I’m more patient, I’m anticipating the game from a whole other new aspect. It’s a revelation, you lose something, you pick something else up.’’

But Garnett is also facing some difficult realities.

The Celtics are experiencing their worst slump since he joined the team. And negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement have not been going in the players’ favor.

“We have a sense of urgency,’’ Garnett said of the Celtics. “We know we have to be more consistent in who we are - a defensive team first, that can score the basketball. With the emergence of our young guys and everybody getting better, there is a type of adjusting there, but none of that should never knock us off our rhythm. We have had some injuries and things of that such and that plays with chemistry, but no excuses made, none given.

“We’ve just got to play better and be consistent. We just have to have better third quarters and better second halves and that’s what we plan on doing. Second half [of the season] we have goals. I do know consistency makes up for a lot and sooner the better - just got to play better. As we say, run through the line, finish the race, play 48 minutes, not in spurts. We’ve been giving up leads, and up until this year we haven’t had that problem. So, we’ll get better, we have no choice - got to.

“For the most part, we go away from what got us the lead, sometimes. We don’t play with that same intensity as we once did at the end of the game. We’re not perfect, not perfect at all. We’re a team that is in progress, getting better, and we’ll continue to do that.’’

As for possible trades, Garnett said, “I play with these guys every night, I’m happy with where we’re at. I know we’ve got to be better and more consistent with how we’re playing but I wouldn’t change anything.’’

Garnett’s message to other NBA players is to stick together through labor negotiations. The owners’ proposals have been like getting “hit by a cold snowball,’’ Garnett said.

“Players definitely have to learn to have one voice,’’ Garnett said. “Tommy Heinsohn was telling me a story how they had to cancel an All-Star Game [because of a labor dispute]. It’s not a give and take thing - try to understand what is the best solution, not talking about one dominating the other, that’s not good. It has to be more consistent going forward.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

NBA All-Star Game
Sunday, 8 p.m. (TNT)

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