Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
As an NBA fan, it’s always tough to watch the greats slowly deteriorate into shells of their former selves. It’s easy to remember the days when Kevin Garnett was averaging 24 points and 14 rebounds in Minnesota but it’s depressing to do so while watching him struggle to get to the rim against Andray Blatche.
Garnett was a monster in his prime. A defensive menace unlike anyone I’ve ever seen. An offensive threat from any range and a terror at the rim. Undoubtedly, he was at his best individual best when he was a Timberwolf but as the anchor and leader of the Boston Celtics, he finally achieved the team success that had escaped him in Minnesota.
It was just three seasons ago when Garnett proclaimed “Anything is possible!!!” after winning the 2008 NBA Championship. A year later, an injury to Garnett would prevent the Celtics from being able to defend their title. A year after that, the Celtics would fall in the Finals to the Lakers in a dramatic seven game series. Last season, Boston would fail to make the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since Garnett arrived.
It was in that series that the guard seemed to change in the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat put a whooping on the Celtics in that series and Miami would go on to face the Chicago Bulls, another young team that looks to be a perennial powerhouse in the East, in the conference finals.
With Garnett and Ray Allen’s contracts expiring at the end of the season, this is almost certainly the final year we will see the big three in Boston. Thru 18 games, they’ve looked old and battered. Other than a couple of spirited wins over the lifeless Orlando Magic and a victory over the Pacers last night (after Roy Hibbert went down in the first half), the Celtics nine wins have come against the bottom feeders of the East (Pistons, Wizards x3, Nets, Raptors). They are currently the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference but they’ll likely have to scratch and claw with New York, Cleveland, Milwaukee and New Jersey (if they get Dwight) for one of the final playoff spots in their conference.
Garnett’s performance has been down across the board. The soon to be 36-year old is averaging just 14 points (fewest since his rookie season) and 7.5 rebounds (third lowest mark of his 16 year career). He’s also shooting just 48% from the field and 64% at the rim, which highlights his inability to get easy looks at this point in his career.
It will be interesting to see how Garnett deals with his declining athleticism going forward. With his contract up, he’d be smart to look for deals with other contending teams. That said, Garnett is going to have to swallow his pride a bit during this process, because at this point, it’s hard to imagine Garnett being the starting power forward on a contending team.
Garnett will have to be willing to take both a cut in pay and in minutes in order to find himself on a great team next season. Will he be up for it?
That remains to be seen. But what we can see is that Garnett can still play. You may need athleticism to keep up with the elite players in this league but so long as you continue to refine your fundamentals, you can be an effective basketball player. If KG is willing to accept that he’s no longer one of the top players in the league and thus accepts a smaller role, whatever team ends up with him will reap incredible benefits.
Because there are still so few big men in the NBA that can defend the pick and roll as well as Garnett can. And there are so few big men in the NBA that can inspire a team like Garnett. The brilliance is in his mind and he remains one of the smartest defenders to ever play this game. And those smarts can make up for a lack of athletic ability for at least a few more seasons.
And as Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan can attest, there are some shots that just never go away, and Garnett’s touch away from the rim is still going strong. Whether it’s his fadeaway jumper from the pinch post (he’s shooting 49% from 3-9 feet this season) or his mid-range jumper (45% from 16-23 feet) Garnett can still be an effective bench scorer in this league as well. Gone are the days of Garnett attacking the rim, but that’s not the end of the world for someone with his touch.
It will be interesting to see how Garnett deals with his declining game. He may be ready to accept a move to the bench or he may feel like he still has enough left to start on a contender. As good as he’s been, Garnett shouldn’t be ashamed to head to the bench after 16 strong years as a starter. It will do wonders for his body over the course of a season and he can still be very effective for 25 minutes a night.
I can understand if Garnett attempts to give it one last go as a starter, but as a fan of the game, I’d rather see him on Philadelphia’s bench, helping anchor one of the best defensive units in the league, leading a young group of players and contending one last time on one of the up-and-coming teams in the league.
That’s what he deserves.
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