The Kevin Garnett dilemma | Red's Army - The Voice of Boston Celtics Fans
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The Kevin Garnett dilemma

There was a moment in last night's game that struck me.  It wasn't obvious.  But for some reason, it screamed at me.  And I didn't like it. It told me that Kevin Garnett is running on fumes.  Here's the play:


What struck me was KG's initial reaction to the break.  He drops his head in that way so many people do when they're begging their bodies for everything it has.  Watch a baseball game when a guy hits a slow roller and he's digging to beat out the throw.  He drops his head to summon every ounce of everything he's got to kick it into another gear. 

When KG started running, when he looked for that other gear, he was at the 3 point line.  Brendan Haywood was at the free throw line.  By the opposite free throw line, they were even.

With Ray Allen running down the left side of the court and Dirk Nowitzki as the only other guy back, this play was SCREAMING for a Rondo-to-KG alley oop that would have brought the building down.  It was perfectly set up.  Except KG couldn't keep up.  KG was tracked down from behind by Brendan Haywood, so he had to come up with a new plan. 

Luckily for the Celtics, Garnett and Rondo are pretty smart players.  Rondo realized the oop wasn't going to be there so he switched to plan B.  Garnett read Rondo and set the pick.  Rondo scores.  And no one thinks anything of it. 

But to me, that play spoke volumes.  Because I know what that play used to be.  I know what that play should have been.  And I know what that play wasn't last night. What's worse is I don't know if that play will ever be THAT play again.  Not consistently, anyway.  

I've tried to hold off on writing this, even though I know this isn't the same KG I remember.  I know it's almost a pre-eulogy to say all this stuff.  And trust me, I want to be very, very wrong about this.  I want some team chemistry to click in and the 5-5-5 plan to work and for KG to recapture some of his former glory. 

I just don't see it, though.  And I'm not alone. 

Remember when Kevin Garnett used to haul in an offensive rebound in traffic inches from the hoop, then stuff home a rim-rattling dunk with a primal scream to match his fury? In this game, when KG grabbed that same rebound under the basket, he dribbled out to the baseline and took an 8-foot fallaway that bounced short.

Again, what else to do but cringe?

There has been legitimate hand-wringing over KG's underwhelming start. He is not unlike former Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez in his later years. Petey used to live and die by the heat of his fastball; in the stretch run of his brilliant career, he learned to be wily and clever and deliver offspeed pitches.

KG's offspeed pitch ain't bad. It's that shot from the elbow that his former Minnesota Timberwolves coach, Flip Saunders, swore Garnett hit at a 70 percent clip in his heyday. It remains a lethal bullet in KG's arsenal, but only if he's willing to shoot it.

There are few players prouder than KG. And Garnett, while not as explosive as he used to be, still plays hard, still lives to defend, and gives you a full honest night of sweat. His numbers were respectable against Dallas (16 points, 10 rebounds), but one of the lasting images of this damaging loss was an awkward, wide-open, short-armed attempt by KG in the final minute of the game that clanged off the rim.

The question now becomes "what do you do with Kevin Garnett?"  He's still amazingly important to this team.  He can still defend.  He can still quarterback the defense and recognize sets.  He can still pass incredibly well and, as Jackie MacMullan wrote there, he can nail that 15-17 footer.  

Can you only get 20-25 good minutes out of him from now on?  And if that's the case, do you slide him into more of a role with the second unit for most of the game, pairing him with the starters only to open and close the game?  Or do you run pick-and-pops for him with Rondo or Ray Allen (so the D has to respect the shooter) more often?

I'm not sure what the answer truly is. The Celtics need to figure out a way to keep him effective at the game's most important moments.  Because Garnett's ability to be effective at all is quickly slipping away.

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  • Jp

    Of course, though, KG doesn’t have to be “Big Ticket” any more. What Doc and the team have to get through to him is that he just needs to do the things he can do, and be dependable in doing them. (Take the jumper from the elbow, box out his man and grab rebounds, direct the defense the way only he can) The great story when this team came together is that the stars found a way to reduce their roles to fit together. Seems to me it’s time to reevaluate all those rolls again.
    Pierce can’t do the things he’s always done, KG can’t either. Hell even Ray looks old on some plays when he’s up against youth. But each of these guys do things that can make this team special. KG isn’t dying, he just needs to accept and adapt.

  • What about the rajon rondo dillema? How he inexplicably has made a key and costly turn over in 3 of the celtics losses? Or how he continues to miss free throws down the stretch of games? Where is the piece on that?
    The answer for kg is get him the ball early in games rather than the point guard forcing shots. Same could be said for pierce. Not to mention ray has been on a roll yet the pg is going all russel westbrook and getting more shots up than ray and paul combined

  • Rondo shot 8 of 12 for FTs yesterday. That’s really good for him. And that turnover at the end of the yesterday’s game was good defense by Dirk rather than a bad pass by Rondo.
    Rondo has to be aggressive and go “all russel westbrook” or this team doesn’t have a chance. He’s the only guy who can create his own shot and the only player whose willing to play inside, which is amazing since he’s the shortest guy on the team. If KG and Pierce want to be involved, and they need to be, they need to get back down the court on offense instead of half-running. Our offense is stalling because 6 seconds are off the shot clock by the time all 5 players get down the court and get set up.

  • he missed the ft’s at key times in close games..missed came down to being tied with under 20 seconds left? yeah..HUGE MISSES in the 4th..and kg and paul werent jogging up the court in the 1st quarter..but their efforts and minutes are wasted when the pg takes all the shots..really good defense by dirk? well he should have not thrown the pass there in the first place..and secondly he also had a similar late game momentum killing turn over vs miami..there have been a few times this season that he has made horrible decisions…its a dilemma!

  • what concerns me was the play before rondo tweaked a hammie. you can see @ .30 he grab’s his left side.. #cantquestionhisheart

  • Posts like this mystify me. What on earth were you expecting? Of course Garnett is not what he used to be. The beautiful thing is that he is still a smart, skilled, dedicated player. The play that he and Rondo made was BEAUTIFUL. It was basketball at its best – two supremely talented and aware players improvising on the run, and completely befuddling the opposition. If the Big Three can continue to find this kind of synergy with Rondo, as Rondo becomes the real star, then we can be strong.
    Get your head out of the past. Criminy, it’s 2012, not 2008.

  • He’s a 7 foot big man who shoots 20 foot jumpers and pretends to post up. I still love him but its getting sad.

  • i really liked the defense with bass, dooling, kg, pietrus and bradley on the floor

  • Yep, Rondo missed some big FTs in a close game. But I’ve seen Paul miss a bunch of clutch FTs as well. I’ve seen KG miss some too. Even Ray, one of the best FT shooters ever, has missed his fair share of clutch FTs. And they are all much better shooters than Rondo, so get off his back.
    And that final play was designed for Ray. Ray was wide open. Dirk was playing good defense, but Rondo thought he could still get a pass in. Rondo is a gambler on offense with his passes. No doubt about it. And when you gamble, sometimes you lose. But more of his passes make it into hands of teammates than opponents, so its not that big a concern.
    And when it comes to basketball, you ride the hot hand. If Rondo’s having a good night, which he was last night, he should be shooting more. It’s been well documented that Rondo’s aggressiveness elevates the rest of the team. If Rondo slacks off, the whole team does worse. So we need to be getting him more involved in the offense and that means scoring more.

  • Off topic, but is there a way to get rid of this stupid code whenever I want to make a comment? I already have to login now, do I really need to enter a code as well?

  • I see Red`s point…it`s no secret, Basketball is a young man`s game.
    KG is closing in on his 36th birthday, with a surgically repaired knee.
    Bad News : This is a “lost” season. Ainge knows it. The Celtics are dead in the water!
    Good News : Ainge will soon have a ton of cap money to spend. He`ll be extremely aggressive in doing so. He and Wyc are not going to allow this franchise to once again play before a slew of empty seats at the Garden!

  • no i will not get off rondo’s back..its his 5th year in the league and he still cant hit ft’s let alone open shots..prob the worst shooting starting PG in the history of the nba…why are the excuses valid for rondo but no one makes excuses for the other players? news flash.rondo isnt the second coming of Larry Bird..he can’t carry a team..and in 08 everyone says rondo was the pg on a championship team but you have to remember down the stretch of games..a big moments in those playoffs and finals Sam Cassell got some BIG minutes..
    the final play? the pass was late..and shouldnt have been a bounce pass…
    when it comes to baskeball you ride the hot hand? well they isnt ray getting more shots? why isnt rondo finding him for the transition 3’s? i was at the game and i saw ray open many times with the lazy vince carter covering him and he didnt get the ball..instead rondo forced bad shots

  • lost season 9 games in where they are 4-2 with paul pierce in the lineup and havent been blown out despite some poor shooting? pump the breaks..the D was really good last night for the most part only 9 games in..caused a few 24 second violations in the 4th..give them a few more weeks.

  • It’s premature to write KG’s epitaph. We don’t know how this season’s late start and compressed schedule are affecting him, nor can we know how he’ll play come playoff time. If ever there was a season when the regular schedule could/should be soft-pedaled in favor of the playoffs, this is it.
    So I think we just need to wait and see.

  • I think doc should seriously consider putting pietrus in the starting lineup instead of pierce. That way you can get rondo doing his thing early in the game, and have him start to embrace the role of a scorer more; and then you can get pierce going by using him in iso with the second unit. This also gets pierce going early against a backup rather than worrying about guarding the other teams best player while also getting into his rythm on O

  • I`ve seen enough…nothing could be more obvious, the Celtics are washed up
    No reason to give them “a few more weeks”.

  • and Dirk was playing good D? just watched the reply..Dirk stood there like a folding chair..and Rondo threw the ball at Ray’s feet as if he couldnt decide to bounce pass or not.

  • Dude says “pump the brakes” after calling Rondo “the worst shooting PG in the history of the NBA.” I guess you never watched Hall of Famer Jason Kidd play the majority of his career.
    You can leave the board now, kiddo.