The Celtics and their over-reliance on Kevin Garnett | Red's Army - The Voice of Boston Celtics Fans
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The Celtics and their over-reliance on Kevin Garnett

We’ve seen what happens to the Celtics when Kevin Garnett isn’t in the line up.  We know it.  But if you don’t, Cedric Maxwell summed it up quite nicely on CSNNE:

“I think the thing about KG, KG is the engine,” Maxwell said. “You can have the keys — Rondo has the keys to everything — but KG is the engine and when the engine is going the car is going the right way. KG rebounds effectively and defensively he is the captain of what they do really well. When he’s been out of the game, they have struggled.”

That’s not breaking news.  That’s been more the norm around here than anything.  But KG isn’t going to be around forever, and at this stage of his career, the Celtics are lucky to have him out there for 30 minutes a night (28.7, right now, to be exact).

He is the Celtics’ Faberge’ egg.  He’s a priceless heirloom with roots that span deep into the NBA’s history.  His mean-spirited attitude towards opponents has been called refreshing by old-school NBA’ers like Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge, who worked at a time where the term “flagrant foul” didn’t exist.  He is, unequivocally, the most important defensive entity on the Celtics.  And, when you consider how his influence permeates every aspect of the team’s defense, you can argue he’s perhaps the most important defensive presence in the league.

And maybe that’s why the Celtics stink on defense right now.

Take, for example, Jared Sullinger’s comments about KG:

“Sometimes he talks too much to the point where you know you’re in perfect position and if you mess up, it’s your fault,” Sullinger said. “Because he talks so much. But when you have him out there defensively, it’s a lot easier.”

“Sometimes he talks too much.”

That’s hardly an indictment of KG.  That’s actually an indictment of everyone else who has grown, perhaps, too accustomed to KG’s barking of orders.  And rather than learn from the orders he’s giving them, they rely on them a bit too much.

This, of course, is speculation.  Not being inside anyone’s head, it’s impossible to know what they’re truly thinking.  But the Celtics’ drop-off on defense seems to have gotten more pronounced without Garnett over time.  And reading the words of a newcomer casually say “sometimes he talks too much” just makes you wonder.

Are the Celtics relying too much on Garnett to direct them, rather than analyze and react the situations on their own?

Of course, it’s hard to expect players to analyze and react quite like KG does.  It’s hard to pick up the C’s rotations and strategies right away, as many of these new guys are expected to do.  But just like a kid learning to ride a bike or roller skate, you have to take the training wheels off and let them fall every once in a while so they can learn how not to later.

“Sometimes he talks too much.”

Yes, KG is the Celtics’ training wheels.  Of course, he’s just doing his job back there.  The guys who are along the baseline defensively have to be able to read and react, much like a linebacker or safety in football.  Garnett is the guy who sees the entire play unfolding.  He’s supposed to be talking out there and directing his teammates because, if you’re on the ball, you only see the guy with the ball and maybe some hazy blurs out of your peripheral vision.

But the other Celtics need to recognize things, and they need to learn from Garnett what he’s seeing and why he’s seeing it.  And despite how it may look sometimes, Garnett does not possess super human abilities to constantly live three seconds in the future so he can anticipate the oppositions’ moves.  He is a student of the game who, in the past year or so, has taken great pains to remind people that he works at his craft.

And none of this is to say the Celtics aren’t learning from him, or won’t in the future.  None of this accuses the Celtics of refusing to do anything.  It’s a simple reaction to what Sullinger may consider an off-the-cuff statement.  But those statements are usually the most honest.  It’s those statements, made when the brain slips a one-liner past the “I’m talking to the media” filter, that can sometimes shed the most light on a situation.

Kevin Garnett, even at 36 and in his 18th season in the league, is profoundly important to the Celtics.  But somehow, some way, they have to get away from relying on him so much that their defense falls apart without him on the floor.  Somehow, the Celtics have to take the training wheels off and learn how to defend without him.  If they don’t, they’ll start next season the same way they started this one… watching another team raise a banner

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  • brian

    Hey Guys, I’m just throwing it out there. I don’t know if the trade will match. I think we could trade Bass or Sullinger with some other pieces to the Knicks for Stoudamire. The Knicks seem fine without him so far and therefore wouldn’t object to trading him. I know that he doesn’t play a lot of defense and is overpaid. There’s no denying that he has more firepower than either Bass or Sullinger, and he can run the floor with Rondo as well.
    Rondo, Bradley, Pierce, Stoudamire, and KG would be a really good starting line up with Lee/terry/green off the bench. Everyone else is expendable

    • Jester00

      No thank you bad knees, kinda lazy, and can’t get his own shot, now I need a shower thinking about that

      • CelticsKid34

        Amare > Jgreen… not gonna happen but i would give green and terry for amare. we would have an all athletic gaurd lineup with barbosa getting more minutes. we would have a better defensive and offensive core. but danny ainge has a hard on for jeff and the knicks are commited to the worst superstar duet of modern nba history in carmelo and amare. danny ainge didnt have any other choice but to sign green to 9mil/yr?! suuuuuuuure. danny made a mistake and he just wanted to make an excuse

  • CelticsKid34

    we wouldnt need to rely on PP and KG so much if the bench will actually start playing like nba players.. as of now i would trade terry for etwaun moore.. did you see him yesterday?! dropping 15 points and shooting 3-3 from beyond the arch!!! courtney and terry need to step it up. the center position needs talent on back up. i say we drop darko and collins and pick up kenyon martin and either play him at backup C or starting PF. jeff green needs to stop camping in the corner he isnt making those corner three’s.

    I KNOW everyone is gonna say “dont panic” and “give it time” but honestly we need to do something. im ok with terry and lee having their problems because they are proven but i say we dump darko and collins and sign a TALENT at C or PF because i really believe it would be VERY beneficial to this team. and a player like martin would take some of the dependence of KG away.

    • KY Celts fan

      Big deal about Etwaun. Mediocre players always put up big numbers on bad teams. Luke Harangody had a 40 pt game in Cleveland as soon as we traded him. Lester Hudson put up some big numbers in Memphis. Neither one were good players.

      • CelticsKid34

        in the preseason we were bragging saying that we got SSSOOOOO MUCH BETTER we got jason terry, lee, green back, and sully in the draft. none of that matters except sully. ray allen would be more productive than lee and terry so far. i would be happy to get rid of green and terry for a semi-star center or power forward but doc is being all dillusional with the small ball talk. he needs to start using the centers especially because we dont want KG getting exhausted in the season. put Kris joseph on the end of the bench as insurance incase of injury. pick up delonte west to take melos spot (because west can handle the ball better than barbosa…and be insurance for loosing a gaurd.. just an idea) i say drop darko so we can leave barbosa in the rotation and he can back up sg and sf when needed (3rd stream of course) put KG back at PF and Wicox at center once he is back in NBA rythm. sully, bass, and collins can back up those two positions with rondo and barbosa at pg. bradley, lee, and terry at sg. and Pierce and green at sf. maybe even put lee or bradley at pg cuz they can both handle the ball better than terry. im not against the idea of getting rid of terry in a trade or something for a back up point guard that can handle the ball. people praise him all the time saying he can handle the ball and run the offense… i dont see it.

  • kg215

    I don’t think Sullinger should even be THINKING that KG talks too much until he is a master of the Celtics defensive system, let alone saying it. The team defense is a mess right now, the new guys are really struggling with it. Either take in every word KG is saying, or be good enough that he doesn’t need to say anything to you.

    • Drew

      It’s too hard to read into what Sully really meant there. You could take that comment several different ways.

  • Mike

    I think the real guy on the Knicks the celtics would be best on trading for would be Tyson Chandler. He fits what we would need him for, REBOUNDING and DEFENSE and HIGH FIELD GOAL %. We don’t need scoring which Amare would bring. We need an anchor in the middle ala KG. what you guys’ think? He’s also good at pick and roll lob dunking which Rondo would benefit from also.

    • CelticsKid34

      hell yeah i would pick him anyday over amare and it would make going up against dwight howard not such a hard task but turn it into fun. we would be the best defense in the league and in the top five in rebounding. but its not gonna happen. we need to start with some constructive brainstorming for potential pick ups instead of dreaming. we would have to give alot to get chandler and greens trade value is probably shit right now.

    • KY Celts fan

      Chandler would be good. But there’s no way NY is giving him up. He makes them a good defensive team, something they desperately needed since Amare is a turnstile and Melo is average.

  • RedsLoveChild

    The Celtics are only kidding themselves if they think they can compete for a title UNLESS they add significant “beef and brawn” in the paint.

    Already, even teams like Milwaukee & Washington are crushing Boston on the boards—again!!

    WTF is Doc “saving” Collins, Melo, Darko, Wilcox for?

    • Banners

      @Redslovechild I completely agree w/ you. I’ve been saying this to myself since the begining of preseason. Doc Rivers is getting to carried away with small ball. He needs to insert guys like Darko, Wilcox, and Collins to play along side KG in order to familarize themselves.

      Small ball doesn’t work against all teams around the league. Doc needs to wake up and realize not evey team is the Miami Heat. Just saying.

    • eddysamson

      I have absolutely no idea why he hasnt been playing Collins. Isnt he a defensive specialist? Or is he only a specialist against the bigs like DH and Bynum?

      Theres decent reasons for the other 2…Darko’s hand/wrist injury is lingering and I’m sure every 5 minutes he plays risks setting that injury back another week or 2 in healing time.

      Wilcox has been out so long he needs to be introduced back in slowly. We will see more of him starting this week but probably still not quite as much as we will down the road…same with Darko.

    • eddysamson

      Oh and I forgot to mention Melo…its been stated hes going to the D-league I believe. I swear I read a Doc quote that said his plan was to (paraphrase) “Let him mature with the Red Claws”

      I believe Melo was in a suit for the Wiz game.

  • Michael Guo

    KG is a master on defence, but it seems to be more tough for him out of his age. Celtics now need to figure out how to defend well without KG in the floor.

  • RA_PapaIrish

    The other thing is, that other than Garnett the only two defensively inclined big man we have are Darko and Collins. Collins is terrible, whether Darko can come in and be a Perkins like steadying force that contests shots and is…well f*** that ain’t going to happen.

    The problem with our bigs the way they are situated right now, is that Bass and Sully can’t play together effectively. So you have to figure out a way to only play Bass and Sully with one of KG, Wilcox, and Darko rather than trying to play big lineups of Bass and Sully, and Sully and Green, and Bass and Green when KG is not on the floor.

  • Mar

    Chandler?? Amare? = PIPE-DREAM
    How about Atlantans AL Horford or Dmarcus Cousins! Or how about we just wait and like KG says ” let it bake” we still got 79 more games to play!! Remember last year when we were under .500 by allstar break?? CTFO!!

  • Ace-One

    Also, Tom Thibodeau.

    KG is the engine, rondo has the keys, but Thibs was the Carroll Shelby of the Celtics defensive machine.

  • Aaron

    Is there a reason we haven’t signed Kenyon Martin to the league minimum??

  • Aaron

    I think the Cs havent signed Martin yet is becuase he is 34 and theyre looking to develop younger players on the fly instead of bringing in another vet

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