Resting or Not, Why All of Kevin Garnett's Time Will Matter in Brooklyn
Garnett, one of the NBA's greatest competitors ever, was asked what he thought about Jason Kidd's idea of sitting him for both games when the team has back-to-backs. Even though Garnett sounded open to the idea, he admitted that the conversation with his new head coach "didn't go too well."
"I'm just being honest, but I understand what he's saying," Garnett said. "He's trying to make sure I'm durable and make sure that I can get through an 82-game season. I'm totally understanding of what it is. He's not coming at me personally or as a man or anything like that. He's looking to better me, so I'm trying to be receptive to that."
The key word there is "trying." That's when Garnett reverted further to his typical self.
"I just don't want to be told anything," he said. "I've earned the right to have an opinion, and that's something that I'm doing. I think more importantly, seriously, from a chemistry standpoint, I think it's important for me to obviously be out there with everybody, and I think it will speed the chemistry process up."
Overall, "rest" doesn't exist in Garnett's vocabulary, and regulating his playing time this season—in games and practices—will be one of Kidd's most challenging tasks.
"One thing about Kevin is that there's no in-between speed with him," Garnett's longtime trainer, Joe Abunassar, told Bleacher Report. "It's either he's asleep or he's in full-go. He just works so hard, so I think the duration of his workouts and things like that have to be a little bit shorter now.
"It's kind of a transformation and the style of training, where when he was 25, 26, he could play every day and run up and down, and pound, and those types of things. But obviously now, I'm not saying he's old, but just being older and having to take care of his body is a little bit different."
Abunassar actually got his start working with elite athletes when he was a manager, along with new Nets assistant coach Lawrence Frank, under Bobby Knight at Indiana University. Specializing in strength and conditioning, Abunassar was later introduced to Garnett, Chauncey Billups, Al Harrington and Joe Smith in the mid-'90s.
Abunassar said in the nearly two decades training some of the best players in the NBA, no one has understood his body and game development quite like Garnett.
"Over the years, there's just nobody better than him, in terms of training," Abunassar said. "He's just terrific. In the training business, you realize that there's a reason why the Garnetts and the Billups' are so good for so long. It's their work ethic. Garnett just goes at it every day. It's high intensity and he pays a lot of attention to detail.
"He'll be so detailed in a workout that he moves the defender—we have defensive players guarding him, whether it's an intern or anybody with a pad—and he'll move him in different positions to make him more realistic to the game. It makes a lot of sense of who's a great player by their whole approach to their day-to-day training."
Now, at 37 years old, Garnett might need a different approach in the gym. Not only will the evaluation of Garnett's minutes be key for saving his legs for the postseason, but it will also keep Garnett fresh daily so he can help the team maintain defensive and toughness consistency. The Nets will need him in as many games as possible. As Paul Pierce told Bleacher Report last week, the Eastern Conference is arguably the most competitive it's ever been, and one loss could mean the difference between home-court advantage or the fifth seed.
Garnett is unquestionably the Nets' glue guy and new backbone of the team, as he's one of the best motivational, no-nonsense guys who can back it up with his All-NBA play the game has ever seen. His defense and toughness—he's known for his physical play, intimidation and constant talking, calling out pick-and-rolls, switches and more—will help the Nets develop a meaner and more focused personality. Andrei Kirilenko called him "a nightmare" on the court.
In 2012-13, the Nets finished 17th in defensive efficiency—a measure of points allowed per 100 possessions—and it showed in their first-round playoff loss to the Chicago Bulls. Garnett, who can defend centers, power forwards and even some 3's, will help invigorate the team's mentality on that end.
"I just think that we, if you look at Game 7, we kind of were soft," Deron Williams said Monday. "That's the only way to put it. I don't see that being a problem this year, and I think us losing the way we did will definitely toughen us up, because we don't want to have that feeling again."
Garnett's presence will also be felt on offense—being a go-to post-up option, spreading out the defense with his pick-and-pop shooting and knocking down clutch baskets. While Garnett will obviously need rest at different times throughout the season, Pierce suggested practices are where Garnett's court time should be scaled back. That way, perhaps Kidd would still be able to level out Garnett's minutes over the course of a back-to-back, so he can mostly start and finish games to set the tone.
"I think they have to monitor him in practice, because K.G. is a guy who's going to go 100 miles per hour," Pierce said. "He has to understand, at this age we're going to need him late in games. We're going to need him for the playoffs to be as healthy and as fresh as possible."
Even if Kidd is able to execute his rest plan for Garnett—which won't be easy by any means—the 18-year veteran will still be a major enforcer from the sidelines. Last season, the Nets were missing an identity, stemming from the lack of a main vocal leader who could fire up the locker room every night, keep everyone in check, and push them to understand this: Nothing means anything without a championship.
"I'm here to get another ring," Garnett said. "That's the only reason we came to Brooklyn—the only reason."
While it's only been a few weeks of scrimmages on the Nets practice court, Garnett has already made a lasting impression on his teammates.
"I know when he goes in those basketball lines, he's all business—straight-faced, no laughing," teammate Alan Anderson said. "It's war. He's the same way in scrimmage, in practice. He's very consistent. He's not phony or anything like that. He's for real. How you see him play in the game is how you see him practice. He's yelling. He's intense."
Tyshawn Taylor added: "His leadership ability is always something that you build up. Being around him the small amount of time I've been around him, already I could see why people say so much positive things about his leadership ability. He's a great locker-room guy to have.
"He comes in the gym and he works hard. He's in there for 20, 30 minutes. He's working hard and leaving with a full sweat, and he's getting better every day. So when you see things like that, that just shows you what kind of professional that you want to be and why he's stayed around so long."
Another teammate, Andray Blatche, actually cried after a physical encounter with Garnett, who taunted him after a game in 2010. But now, Blatche realizes the ultra-competitive drive that sparks Garnett.
"I can tell he's a good teammate to have," Blatche said. "He's going to push you, and he's going to make you bring your all. He definitely has your back no matter what on the court, and that's good to have on the team."
The Nets know they're playing alongside a legend in Kevin Garnett—a former MVP and a 15-time All-Star with a countless number of other awards. But he wants them to forget about all of those individual accolades and worry about one thing only: becoming a team champion, which he already was in 2008. That mentality should go a long way this season in Brooklyn, on and off the court.
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