On anyone of a number of levels, last season was Kevin Garnett's worst ... ever. His team was disappointing. He missed 19 games to back spasms, an injury he never experienced before, and while his leadership didn't falter, his numbers did. He average a career low 6.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in a little less than 20 minutes a game, his time on the court monitored by Jason Kidd, who would start him, then pull him like clockwork at six minutes in. He seemed to have lost that quick-twitch athleticism that was his trademark.
Now, he is back for his 20th season, the fourth player in NBA history to do so, joining three other big men, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Robert Parrish and Kevin Willis in that club. Despite his poor season last year, The Big Ticket wants to start and Lionel Hollins gave every indication this week that he would.
"If he's healthy, and producing, he's going to play. How many minutes? I don't know. But he is not going to play 15 or 16 minutes. I can guarantee you that," said the Nets coach, the last line apparently being a swipe at his predecessor and his rigid time management.
"There is nobody in the gym that I would put in his place," continued Hollins. "He has earned the right to have that opportunity to be the starter from Day One. Somebody has to knock him out, it's got to be like a heavyweight fight. I don't really see that happening."
It wasn't a rock solid guarantee but considering how much the Nets have talked about Mason Plumlee's development and Brook Lopez's return to health, it was a bit of a surprise that Hollins would say what he said this early, 10 days before Media Day, six weeks before opening night. But he may know more about Garnett's mindset and skillset.
"He looks good. He looks in great shape, shooting the ball extremely well," added Hollins in a less quoted line. "He’s working. I would assume that if in fact it is his last year, he would want to make it his best."
Well, maybe not his best, but only two years ago, KG averaged 15 and 8 in 30 minutes during the regular season and 13 boards in the playoffs vs. the Knicks. Even last year Garnett would have led the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage of defensive rebounds if he played more minutes, enough to qualify,
Ohm Youngmisuk thinks he will be more a defensive presence than anything else.
"Kevin Garnett's value right now is really what he brings defensively on the floor," Youngmisuk said on ESPN. "He;s basically like their defensive linebacker. He gets everybody organized. He's the guy who communicates. He's going to make sure everyone is on the same page. He obviously can rebound."
His legacy, of course, is secure. He has a chance to move up in several all-time statistical categories this season, particularly with more minutes. But every athlete wants to go out as a champion, on his own terms, with the crowd cheering and the band playing. He still has his pride, his BBIQ, his mentoring ability, his leadership. He wants his legacy too.
- What if this is the last season for Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett? - Matt Moore - CBS Sports
- Hollins Says Garnett Will Start If Healthy (Video) - Ohm Youngmisuk - ESPN