I was in New York to cover Steve Nash’s “Showdown in Chinatown” charity soccer game. There, I spoke to Elton Brand briefly about Kevin Garnett, against whom Brand and the Philadelphia 76′ers matched up for seven grueling games in the conference semifinals.
The simple question was whether he, as a man who faced him on the floor just a month ago, saw any signs of wear in KG. The simple answer was no.
“He’s got a lot left in the tank. I hope he comes back. I’d love to see him again in the playoffs.”
Still, there is no stopping time. At some point, every player has no choice but to hang them up. And Brand is well aware of that. He’ll turn 34 this upcoming season, his 14th season in the NBA. Brand knows the end of his career isn’t far off, much like KG, and he knows there are adjustments to made along the way.
“It’s a big difference. How you played when you’re 21… there’s a big difference between when you’re 34 or 35. You got that internal burn to get better, you want to play hard, and compete. You know you can compete with the young guys, even though they’re 22, 23 years old. You just want to get out there and show it.”
That’s the thing with KG. He brought up the “I hear y’all calling me old” more than once this past season. And I think what Brand said was part of what fuels that, and him. There is no doubt KG takes pride in the fact that he’s “old” but he’s still out there torching the kids. Brand compared KG to another old guy who is still getting the job done (and host of yesterday’s event) Steve Nash.
“You just have that mental edge, and add it with the physical… you see how Steve Nash is almost 40. He’s basically a vegan, he doesn’t eat sugar, he plays soccer, a 90 minute game so he stays in shape. Those are the things that can give you the competitive edge as you age.”
The question now is, is Garnett’s competitiveness stronger than his body’s desire to stop going through this all on a daily basis. Another thing KG said this season was that we don’t know what he goes through on a daily basis just to get ready for games.
And he’s right.
We only saw the end result. They were amazing end results, but still, we never saw the hours with trainers getting his body ready for the grind. That’s the stuff that makes guys quit.
Basketball players will always love to play basketball. And they’ll ALWAYS love the immature atmosphere that is inherently part of playing a sport for a living. But what they get sick of after 17 years is the aches, the pains, the walk that that betrays you by revealing them all as well as your age… all of that stuff.
Now the question facing Garnett is, is he willing to go through that one more time. Is that edge still sharp enough to cut through the pain of preparation for one more season?
Here is the video of my brief interview with Elton Brand (check your volume… this audio is a little high):