Donny Marshall has watched Kevin Garnett for seven seasons -- five with the Celtics and now two with the Nets on the YES Network -- as a TV analyst. He also played against him. So Marshall has a unique perspective and in an interview with NetsDaily, Marshall thinks he sees a resurgence in the 20-year vet, which is one part skills --even if declining-- and added minutes and one part, vintage KG.
"I'm going to be my own man," says Marshall, now in his second year with YES, in describing what drives Garnett.
It shows. At age 38, Garnett is playing solid basketball. Part of it is evident in the numbers. He's averaging 8.4 points and 8.4 rebounds in 24 minutes a game, along with two assists. On defense, he leads the league again this year in defensive rebounding percentage at 34.6 percent, and this year, he may play the minutes needed to qualify for the top spot. He's also ninth in rebounds per 48 minutes, just ahead of Mason Plumlee.
But it's more than numbers, suggests Marshall.
"He's KG the coach on the floor, in practices I've watched. The intensity dies down only when he's not in full health," says Marshall. "Maybe he's a little less edgy now, but he's still intense."
"This is where he shows the value. Even without playing, he's an integral part of the team," the YES analyst added. "If I'm a young player looking at this guy, and thinking, 'this guy is doing this in his 20th year, at age 38,' this would inspire me!" Plumlee of course has mentioned his teammate's mentoring, but privately, other Nets players and executives offer up a whispered reverence when talking about the sure Hall of Famer.
And if you don't buy into the KG mode of play, don't expect to be his friend.
"One thing about KG that people don't know is that he's like Kenyon Martin," said Marshall, who played with KMart on the Nets Eastern Conference championship teams. "If he likes you, he loves you. If he doesn't, you know it."
What's the bottom line KG uses in making that determination. "Know your duty," says Marshall.
He thinks Garnett and Hollins respect each other as driven professionals and that it's played out in Hollins' use of KG, who has started ever game and is averaging more than three minutes more a game than he did with Jason Kidd as coach. Hollins, Marshall notes, brings that same intensity to coaching, which is what KG wants.
Hollins has shied away from taking Garnett out like clockwork at the six minute mark of the first quarter and resting him in the back end of back to backs, as his predecessor did. KG has rewarded that confidence. He had double-doubles against the Suns and Trailblazers, 12 and 10 against Phoenix and 12 and 12 against Portland. And when Golden State game started getting out of hand, Hollins pulled KG after he had played 13 minutes. No need to play him.
It's paid off. He registered his third double-double of the season at Portland Saturday in his ninth game. He totaled three double-doubles all of last season when he played only 54 games.
Marshall says of course Garnett is not going to be the same player he once was, noting, that like Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing, he's "getting a little further away from the basket" as he ages. The smarts aren't diminished though.
At the core of KG's intensity and drive, says Marshall, is his keen intelligence. "That intelligence is masked by his intensity, by his antics, but never doubt it."
What about the future? First of all, Marshall isn't surprised that he returned and it's not about the money. KG is making $12 million this year, but as Marshall says it's not about the Benjamin's for Garnett. "KG doesn't find the money. The money finds KG."
It's the love of the game that drives him and that love is manifested in the "loyalty and high intensity he brings. It's about 'I can do that,'" says Marshall.