PORTLAND, Ore. — There’s no school like the old school and Kevin Garnett is something of a headmaster. The Celtics forward believes to the depth of his core in playing all 82 games of an NBA regular-season schedule, no matter what.
“It’s my makeup,” he said Sunday before the Celtics’ 92-86 loss to Portland.
But Garnett missed his first game of the season Friday to rest, and he said a day later that he was — believe it or not — OK with sitting out.
“In this situation, I wasn’t opposed to it,” he said.
Coach Doc Rivers said Garnett’s night off stemmed from a triple-overtime game against Denver before the All-Star break, when Garnett played 47 minutes, his most as a member of the Celtics.
Since that game against the Nuggets, Rivers said Garnett hadn’t been the same, and Rivers said they’d monitor Garnett’s minutes the rest of the regular season, including sitting him a game or two to keep him rested for the playoffs.
And Garnett, the basketball warrior that he is, said he’s OK with that plan, too.
“I’ve always tried to be whatever Doc needed for the team,” said Garnett, who rebounded for 20 points and nine rebounds Sunday night.
Garnett added that he usually gauges how he’s feeling through his legs, especially when he’s not making his free throws. He was 0 for 4 from the line in the two games prior to Friday.
“And me missing free throws is not unusual,” he said, “but the early parts of the game where I’m taking them and I’m missing them, it says little things.”
Without him Friday, the Celtics pounded the Suns, 113-88, and Garnett said he joked to Rivers that if they were going to play like that, he’d sit out against Portland, too.
“I thought they played very free,” Garnett said of the team’s effort against the Suns. “I thought they played aggressively. If we can bottle that for when I am around or when I am playing, that would be great.”
Like Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, and Rivers, Garnett has preached ball movement and defense more since Rajon Rondo went down, and he does feel a level of satisfaction in seeing his teammates do such things even when he isn’t out there.
“The things that we’re asking some of the young guys to do is a lot,” Garnett said.
“The major players who’ve been in the league know how to do it, certain things like that.
“One thing you can’t give is in-game experience. You can only get that from the games, but we have very smart players, we have a lot of potentially great players, players that are going to be something in our league some day, and it’s good to give them the opportunity.”
Small tweaks needed
Given how well the Celtics have played small-ball on offense since Rondo went down, it seems as though this system could be their scheme of the future.
Rivers didn’t oppose the idea, noting that it all depends on the players available. But Rivers admitted that before the year, he thought this season’s Celtics would be a successful small-ball team — with a lot of ball movement and running.
He didn’t anticipate the crippling injuries that forced his team to go away from that, Rivers pointed out. Rivers said he thought that if forward Jeff Green improved, “we would be able to play more of that [style] because of his size and speed and length.”
Green started in place of Garnett against Phoenix and scored 31 points, his most as a Celtic.
“He’s not going to play like that every night, but he can play well every night,” said Rivers, before Green had a rough outing, finishing with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting against Portland. “What you really want with him is being consistent, and I think it’s starting to come more and more.”
White not cleared yet
D.J. White was with the Celtics in Portland, but he wasn’t able to participate in any basketball-related activities because he had not yet received a letter of clearance from China, where he most recently played for the Shanghai Sharks. The Celtics are expected to sign the 6-foot-9-inch White to a 10-day contract when that paperwork goes through. He will wear No. 12. White attended Indiana, where he played alongside Jordan Crawford, who described White’s style of play like this: “Got a nice midrange jump shot, got a lot of ball-handling skills, defense.” . . . Rivers has said he’s looking forward to the end of the road trip, after which the Celtics will only play one game — March 1 against Golden State at TD Garden — in eight days. A key part of that stretch will be used to help Crawford and Terrence Williams learn the defensive system that the Celtics play. Still, Rivers said, “It’s going to take them a while.” . . . Rivers called Portland’s Damian Lillard “the best rookie in the league” before the game. Lillard is averaging 18.3 points per game, the most of any rookie in the NBA.