A Q&A with Kevin Garnett, who was ‘shocked’ by Kyrie Irving’s decision to have surgery

Kevin Garnett Boston Celtics
Kevin Garnett celebrates after winning the NBA Finals. –Barry Chin/Globe Staff

It’s been a decade since Kevin Garnett and the 2007-08 Celtics reminded us that anything is possible after they claimed the franchise’s 17th championship.

It may be hard to believe that was 10 years ago. But not for Garnett, who said during a phone conversation Tuesday he sometimes feels there already is a generation gap developing between his era and the current players.

He made this clear when he concluded the conversation by asking his interviewer a question.

“Are you shocked by the Kyrie decision for surgery?’’ he asked, referencing Celtics guard Kyrie Irving’s recent season-ending surgery on his knee.

Advertisement

I told him I was not surprised, given that Irving was clearly playing through pain and there seemed to be some mystery about the whole situation.

“I was shocked. I was totally not ready for that one,’’ said Garnett, who battled knee injuries during his time with the Celtics.

“I wish they’d pushed the onus [on him] to play a little bit, but everyone is a lot more into wellness and their body these days. In a different era, maybe you were looked at a little differently [if you couldn’t play through an injury].’’

Of course, Garnett has always been old-school and tough-minded. He’s also candid, which is one reason his weekly “Area 21’’ segment, which airs Thursdays on TNT’s NBA coverage and features conversations with NBA and WNBA players, is a must-watch for basketball fans.

It makes him an ideal subject for a Q&A. Here are a few of Garnett’s thoughts, on “Area 21,’’ relationships among the ’08 Celtics, and thoughts on the current team as it approaches the postseason.

Q. “Area 21’’ feels casual, but almost private, like you’re listening in on a conversation among friends. Charles Barkley, Shaq, and Kenny Smith have that a little on the studio show, but that’s more formal. You really get a sense for what players are like when they’re just hanging out. Is this something you thought about doing eventually when you were an active player?

Advertisement

A. Hell, no. I didn’t even consider this until I got into . . . not a brand situation, but I was trying to find something to enjoy. I started a new business and created some other opportunities for myself, so I just jumped into some ideas I had.

Once we got to Turner and started talking about what it could be, I got very excited about it. Turner did a dope presentation on how this could be set up like a man cave, and how this and that would work, and who we would have on, and it felt like a collaboration that really could work. It just felt right.

We did one [with Rasheed Wallace as the guest] and people liked it, and it didn’t feel forced or anything like that. I don’t think people realized how close Rasheed and I were, how much we like talking the game, and our distinct opinions on it that we would express. I wasn’t rehearsed or any of that [expletive]. It was super-liberal and free, and that’s what I like about it and coming in here every week.

I’m not gonna front, it’s not as casual as it would be if there were no cameras around. [Laughs.]

Q. One of the episodes that generated the most buzz was when you reunited several of your teammates — Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, and Glen Davis — from the Celtics’ 2007-08 championship team.

A. Yeah, it’s funny. A long time ago I told Danny [Ainge] when I got to Boston that this felt different. And he said, “What do you mean?’’ Danny flew out to California to see me that summer [2007, when Garnett was traded to the Celtics], and one of the first things I said to him was this is different than anything I’d known before. I never had a Paul Pierce and a Ray Allen, with that kind of potential going into a season.

Advertisement

And I told him, “You know what you should do? You should record this, because it’s going to be special.’’ And he looked at me and laughed. He laughed.

It went so well, so perfect the first year, and we never recorded none of that stuff. We all have our memories, recollections of it, we all were there. I guess that’s the beauty in that.

My point is that the world never really got to see us interact and what made us great. The things we argued about, the things we debated about, the things we disliked. But also the things that we did like, that we shared, the conversations on the plane, on the bus, in the arena, on the court, on the floor. All of those conversations build layers and a sense of respect. You start to really know each other.

The world, Boston fans, didn’t really get to see much of that. You got glimpses. But you never got to see what really made us great, those bonds.

Q. How did you guys develop those bonds to such a meaningful degree? You guys often talked about Ubuntu and your closeness when you played, but that doesn’t seem like something you can force.

A. I’ve got to thank Doc [Rivers] for initiating all of that. He didn’t just tell us to communicate. He told us to go beyond that, to tell someone his flaws, to build some second skin. He pushed that envelope so we could speak freely.

So when I had those guys on that show, I wanted to take us back to when we were great, to recapture that, to be how we were. You heard it amongst the group. The show we did was an example of a super team getting together to talk about what made the team super. I’ve never seen anything on tape of a team where guys came back and talked about the nuances of what made them great as a team.

[Expletive] individuals, you know what I’m saying? You put individuals together, sometimes you can expect them to win if they’re talented enough. But you needed to hear it and see it, what we saw. I wanted you to be able to watch this and say, “Oh, OK I see why this worked.’’ You watch us together, you see it, you see it right away. It’s a real brotherhood.

Q. You guys can be pretty salty though. It seemed like a team of Type A personalities, other than maybe Perk, at least among the starters.

A. I’d like to say that we’re like the United Nations. We’re about peace. We don’t argue. [Laughs.] We’re all old alphas that come together and share our views.

When we were on the bus or watching the Kentucky Derby or watching LSU getting their [expletive] kicked, you’ve got to best believe Big Baby is talking, or Rondo gets his shots in, or Perk bragging about Texas, or Paul if will jump up and say something that we don’t feel, we’ll jump his [expletive] or vice versa. But it’s real. It’s a real interaction.

We’ve exceeded being a bunch of players brought together to play ball. We’re brothers in each other’s lives. Real friends, you know?

Q. Where does Ray Allen fit into this? When he went to Miami, that seemed to damage his relationship with the rest of you guys. And now his book is out . . .

A. I never really like to keep talking about this. I’m tired of all the Ray Allen questions. When Ray decided to go to Miami, that’s when it was done for all of us.

We never asked for anything. He just did it, and it was over. We never asked for any apology, just move on.

Focus on your book, focus on your life, focus on your restaurant. We root for him and for his family, but we’ve moved on. We had a great relationship with Ray at one point, but it’s gone. We’re moving on. There’s other stuff to be doing, other stuff to be conquered, you know?

Q. You were the one who told Celtics fans anything was possible. But what’s possible for this year’s Celtics? It’s been a fun year in a lot of ways, but how far can they go given all of the injuries they’ve suffered?

A. I’m interested to see how the young fellas Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum handle the playoffs, because whoever they play will try to give them hell in the first round. The playoffs are very intimidating, very intimidating.

But it’s basketball. You have to meet that [expletive] head on. You can’t go into the playoffs trying to be cool. You need to go at it head-on, full throttle. That’s the only way I know.

I want to see how they react to the energy. They’re not going to get a lot of foul calls. They have to adjust to that. The first game is always the hardest because you’re so thoroughly scouted. Everyone knows what you want to do, what you can do, and vice versa.

I want to see how they come out of the first couple of games, and then you’ll have a sense for how far they can go.

Have a question about the Celtics? Email us at [email protected] or tweet us @BDCCeltics.