During the Celtics' gratifying playoff run, Kevin Garnett has become a basketball version of David Ortiz. Counted out, Garnett has staged a remarkable revival, evoking some of his best days.
The Big Ticket and Big Papi are kindred souls of Boston sports. Both are 36 years old, both came to Boston from Minnesota, both have been doubted, dismissed and labeled diminished -- or worse -- as they approach the final straightaways of their distinguished careers.
Garnett is never going to average 24 points or 13.9 rebounds per game again, as he did during the 2003-04 season. Ortiz is never going to drive in 148 runs, as he did in 2005, or slug 54 home runs, as he did in 2006. But that's not the point.
The point is that both KG and Big Papi are performing at a level that few thought they would be able to reach at the advanced stages of their careers. They are defying aging with open defiance of both Father Time and those who had written their epitaphs.
They are also redefining what it means to be past one's prime, their excellence in lockstep with their contempt for their naysayers.
KG and Big Papi's renaissance fare was on display Monday night at roughly the same time, as they helped propel their teams to important victories, separated by 404 miles and a few channels on the cable box.
Garnett, who has hopped in the hoops Delorean to become the go-to scorer for the Celtics in the postseason, dropped 20 points on the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday evening, as the Celtics took a 3-2 series lead with a 101-85 victory that put them one win away from a place few thought they would be three months ago -- the Eastern Conference finals.
With the Red Sox trailing the first-place Baltimore Orioles, 5-2, in the sixth inning, Ortiz jump-started a Red Sox rally with a mammoth home run that sailed out of Camden Yards, landing on bordering Eutaw Street like an artillery shell with seams.
That was the spark for a three-run sixth that allowed the Sox to tie the game. The Red Sox went on to claim an 8-6 victory -- their 9th in 11 games -- to pull back to .500 for the first time since April 30. Suddenly, a season on the brink may be on the brink of turning the corner.
Perhaps, then it was fitting that after the big win in Baltimore, Ortiz channeled his basketball counterpart in vituperating his detractors.
Ortiz was asked by ESPNBoston's Gordon Edes about the team meeting he called on May 11, a season-altering assembly in which the law was reportedly laid down to the team's laggard starting pitchers. It came the same night that Josh Beckett was boxed around by the Cleveland Indians in the wake of his ill-timed tee time.
Ortiz, the longest-tenured Red Sox, was indignant at the notion that up until that point anyone questioned his leadership -- or anything else.
"I don't get no respect," he told Edes. "Not from the media. Not from the front office. What I do is never the right thing. It's always hiding, for somebody to find out."
It was hard to read those words and not think of Garnett's public censure of the media 11 days earlier, after he dropped 28 points and 14 rebounds in the clinching-game of the Celtics' first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks.
A rejuvenated KG admonished his doubters, the ones who thought such dominant performances by him were only found on YouTube or NBA Classics on NBA-TV.
"...It's almost like you guys are shocked," said KG. "Like this ain't what I do every day, like this ain't what I was made for. It does come off disrespectful at times. I put a lot of work and time into this, and there are certain levels I expect from myself.
"I take this very seriously, so you guys calling me old...you have no idea what you are doing when you say those 'old' comments. I appreciate that. I don't read your columns, but it gets back to me."
You're welcome, Kevin.
Both KG and Big Papi turn the slightest questioning of their ability into a personal affront. Despite the difference in their public demeanors they're both intensely proud men. It's part of what makes them great, and has allowed them to thumb their noses at athletic actuarial tables.
It's obvious from his comments that Ortiz is still embittered by the fact the Sox have resigned him to playing for his contract each year and the way he was treated in 2009 and 2010, when glacial starts had commentators dancing on his grave and NESN asking fans if he should still be the DH.
He's not only still with the Sox, but atop the American League leaderboard. Ortiz ranks in the top 10 in the American League in batting average (.333), runs batted in (30), home runs (10) and on-base percentage (.402). Only Josh Hamilton has a better AL slugging percentage than Ortiz's .616 and his 1.019 OPS is third-best in the AL.
The once-declining DH leads all of major league baseball in extra-base hits with 25, and since the start of the 2010 season, only five players have more extra-base hits.
Garnett has averaged 19.3 points and 10.5 rebounds this postseason. The rebounding total matches what he put up during the 2007-08 playoffs, when the Celtics won Banner No. 17. He has twice as many blocks this postseason (18) than he had all of last postseason, and is just two blocks shy of his total from the 2009-10 postseason. That was accomplished in 23 playoff games.
Usually, in sports if something is too good to be true, it turns out it's not. We've learned that disappointing lesson too often, too many times.
Hopefully, Garnett and Ortiz are age-old exceptions in every way because it's too enjoyable to watch them buck the odds and carry their teams.
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.