Their relationship may have been icy when Kevin Garnett asked for a contract extension six years ago and Kevin McHale traded him to the Celtics. Much time has passed, and both now reflect on their years together in Minnesota.
McHale, the former Celtics great who’s now coach of the Rockets, shared an emotional hug with Garnett following the Rockets’ win over the Celtics Dec. 14 in Houston, a few weeks after the death of McHale’s daughter, Alexandra, from complications from lupus.
“We spent a lot of time in the gym together when I was not as gray and moved a little bit better,” McHale said before the Celtics’ 103-91 win over the Rockets Friday night at TD Garden. “Great kid. Great work ethic. Turned himself into a fantastic player for years and years and years. With his energy level, what he’s still able to accomplish in the NBA, not so much his age, but look at the amount of minutes he’s played. It’s just phenomenal. I’m happy for him.”
Garnett, who still harbors disappointment in the Timberwolves organization and how his tenure ended, expressed gratitude for his time with McHale.
“Kevin hasn’t been my coach for a long time but he’s taught me a lot,” Garnett said. “So I see the similarities and I see some things that I remember or is refreshing to my mind sometimes when I am watching his teams play. The disadvantage is he’s taught me everything that I know. Other than the competition, it’s always good to see people you’ve worked with still in the game.
“I think Kevin’s been one of the best teachers I’ve ever been around. And he has a lot to give to the game and he loves basketball that much and it’s good to see he’s still around.”
Chandler Parsons played in the same Florida AAU circuit as Doc Rivers’s sons, Austin and Jeremiah, and he was available when the Celtics drafted 25th overall in 2011. The Celtics, along with every team in the first round, passed on Parsons despite an impressive draft workout. Boston drafted MarShon Brooks and traded him to New Jersey for the rights to JaJuan Johnson. Johnson played one season with the Celtics before being traded to Houston in the Courtney Lee deal, and is now in the Development League.
Rivers regrets the Celtics passing on Parsons, who was taken 38th overall by the Rockets and is averaging 14.1 points this season after scoring 18 Friday night. Parsons’s career scoring average of 11.2 is sixth among players drafted in 2011.
“It’s funny, over the holidays we were having another family argument,” Rivers said. “Nick Calathes was on his team [at the University of Florida] and I’ll never change, I know Nick and Nick’s terrific, but the kid that will be the pro is Parsons. He has size and he has a shot. Everyone shouted me down and so I actually brought it up at the table I think about three or four weeks ago when I snuck in town [Orlando]. It was hard for them to say, but they had to say I was right because that’s a rarity.
“He had an amazing [pre-draft] workout. I would say of our workouts that year, it was our best workout.”
With the Celtics experimenting with new rules, Garnett was obligated to speak with the media before a game for the first time in nearly 18 years.
He has had a personal policy not to speak to media prior to games, saying he began his practice as a rookie with the Timberwolves.
“I played like crap [after talking to the media] and the next time [teammate] Terry Porter told me never to do interviews again and I’ve never done an interview again,” Garnett said. “But here we’re trying something out and it’s for the betterment of the team, so I hope this will work.”
After missing Monday’s win over the Knicks with a sore hamstring, Jason Collins returned for a brief stint Wednesday against the Suns, and played 10 minutes Friday night. The backup center said he is nearing full health. “It takes time whenever you have an injury, especially a hamstring,” he said. “It’s getting better each day. Trust me, I definitely appreciate getting the extra days of rest. I feel a lot better today than I did yesterday. It’s getting progressively better, almost back to 100 percent.” . . . The Celtics sent Fab Melo back to Maine of the D-League after he passed his concussion tests. Melo last played Dec. 29, and sustained the concussion running into a hotel door after the game. He had the winning layup with 1.2 seconds left in Maine’s 102-100 road win against the Springfield Armor and finished with 6 points and six rebounds in 29 minutes . . . Chris Wilcox was taking shots wearing a wrist brace before the game and hopes to participate in practice Sunday. Wilcox has been out since Dec. 19 with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament. There is no timetable for his return.