Is there a better all-around Celtics player than both Larry Bird and Bill Russell?
Yes, according to retired NBA champion Cedric Maxwell.
“Kevin Garnett is the best all-around player the Celtics have ever had,” Maxwell told CLNS’s Adam Kaufman on an episode of “Celtics Beat” podcast that aired Sunday. “He was a better defensive player than Larry — not as good offensively. He was a better offensive player than Bill Russell — not as good defensively. But you could say that Kevin Garnett was no slouch on either one of those things. He’s one of the top players to ever play the game.”
Maxwell, who played eight seasons with the Celtics and now is one of the team’s radio broadcasters, said Garnett was an MVP candidate during his first year in Boston. The Celtics, of course, won the 2008 NBA championship that year. Garnett finished third in MVP voting, behind winner Kobe Bryant and runner-up Chris Paul.
Maxwell also said the Celtics were “on their way to winning 70 games” the following season (2008-09) before Garnett went down with a season-ending knee injury.
“That’s how good Kevin Garnett was,” he said.
But Garnett offered more than his individual contributions. His approach, his mindset, and overall persona made those around him better because he was able to bring the team together and encourage others “buy in,” Maxwell said.
“He defined what they did and the biggest thing he did, like Larry Bird, like Bill Russell, he changed the culture of this team,” Maxwell told Kaufman. “When you have Paul Pierce — Paul had been a great player all his life, but Paul Pierce became more of a great player when he was around Garnett. [Rajon] Rondo became Rondo. [Garnett] made guys. He made Doc Rivers a better coach.”