It's all adding up
Garnett's contributions measured in many ways
The expectations were question marks. As Kevin Garnett hit 35 years old, as he began an abbreviated season in the last year of his contract, it was difficult to tell what he would be able to give the Celtics. He didn’t know. Coach Doc Rivers didn’t know. Fans didn’t know.
And yet Garnett has provided more than the Celtics hoped for, more than enough for the team to win on a consistent basis, especially on nights such as Wednesday, when the 17-year veteran helped keep Boston afloat against the Bucks with a season-high 25 points, and 10 rebounds.
“It’s amazing,’’ Rivers said. “You look at his numbers and it’s amazing. ‘Kevin, oh, Kevin is this’ - it’s all you hear. And no one looks at his numbers.
“And I’ll tell you where no one really looks is his numbers per minutes played. It’s not like Kevin is playing a ton of minutes, and he’s still putting up numbers.
“He’s just been a phenomenal guy to coach. I can tell you that every day.’’
Garnett is averaging 14.9 points and 8 rebounds this season, off his career averages of 19.4 and 10.7, but he is playing 30.8 minutes per game. That is the third-lowest average of his career - behind 2009-10 and his rookie season - though his minutes are fairly consistent with those of the past four seasons.
Taking a look at his numbers per 36 minutes, according to basketball-reference.com, they creep closer to his career averages. Garnett is averaging 17.4 points per 36 minutes, off his 19.1 career mark, and 9.3 rebounds, off his 10.5 career average.
And, adding to that, Garnett has been surprisingly durable. Asked about that, Rivers would only say, “I’m not talking about that,’’ seemingly fearful of jinxing it.
Garnett also got himself a little extra inspiration Wednesday with his first technical foul of the season. He was called for jawing with the Bucks’ Larry Sanders.
“I don’t need much motivation,’’ he said. “Y’all don’t know me. Y’all don’t get to see me every day and my preparation that I have to do to get ready to play. Sometimes you need a little swift kick. We shook up the doghouse, as we say.
“I like that. It gave me a little energy. It doesn’t take much, but I’m just trying to get my team an edge, man. I’m going through some personal problems as of late, but I’m good and I’m back, looking at life a little different. Just beat up and all that, just giving everything I have. Who cares what people say?’’
Though if Garnett had been listening to his coach yesterday, it’s possible he might have cared. Rivers acknowledged it was starting to sound like a retirement speech for the forward, an appreciation of all he has meant to the NBA and the organization in his five years in Boston.
“I know it sounds corny,’’ Rivers said. “He’s a wonderful guy to work with every day. Even on the days he doesn’t play well, you know he’s going to try. Everything that comes out of his mouth toward the team is always the right thing. It may not be well said in the way he says it, but it’s always the right thing.’’
The question remains as to how much longer he’ll be in a locker room, whether that’s in Boston or another NBA outpost. The days are winding down on the 6-foot-11-inch forward’s career. There’s only so much longer he can produce at this level.
As Garnett said, in reference to a question about Chris Wilcox’s injuries, “They don’t have enough pharmaceuticals, medicine, to get us through some of this stuff.
“But you know what? It’s all heart, it’s all grit. It’s all about what’s inside you, what’s driving you. That’s what we’re doing right now. A lot of this is just all hard work and effort.’’
No matter how much longer Garnett plays, it’s clear the Celtics are getting quite a bit out of him this year. And it’s clear, too, that the team will miss him when his time in Boston ends, whether that’s in the next few months or not.
“I know he’s difficult for [the media] at times and that’s who he is,’’ Rivers said. “Reminds me of Patrick Ewing in that way because you don’t get to see who he really is. But I’m telling you, with the team, you couldn’t have just a better guy in the locker room. It’s amazing.’’
Or, as Garnett said Wednesday (though it was actually in relation to the black plastic-frame glasses he was sporting), “I’m not trying to be like somebody else. You’ll never see that. There’s only one Garnett.’’