By all accounts, the Brooklyn Nets are in a pretty good place right now: fresh off a strong regular-season finish, up 1-0 in their first-round series with the Toronto Raptors and in all likelihood already planning for a potential Round 2 matchup with the Miami Heat.
But according to Newsday’s Rod Boone, Brooklyn’s promising postseason prospects belie some of the more clandestine chemistry issues with which the team—newly added veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in particular—has had to deal.
Pierce on Deron: "He has a huge responsibility on this team and that's why he gets paid the big bucks, because we need him to do everything"— Rod Boone (@rodboone) April 20, 2014
KG was very introspective today. Gave it straight when asked him about Deron. Said: "I think Deron's biggest problem had been Deron."— Rod Boone (@rodboone) April 20, 2014
Garnett said sometimes it gets to point where he has to "pull him to the side and give him some real s#!%, say some real s*@#."— Rod Boone (@rodboone) April 20, 2014
We assume the topic was prompted by the stellar Game 1 play of Deron Williams himself, who tallied 24 points in the Nets’ 94-87 win Saturday. Indeed, Williams has long been Brooklyn’s biggest bellwether—the fulcrum of an offensive attack head coach Jason Kidd has steadily refined over the course of the season.
What we will not assume, however, is what "s--t," exactly, Mr. Garnett was referring to. Though we can safely assume it was probably the most heinously terrifying conversation Williams had ever had with another human being.
How seriously has Garnett taken his newfound role as veteran locker room linchpin? Check out this KG-related anecdote from the New York Daily News’ Stefan Bondy, relayed following—wait for it—the first day of training camp.
According to Williams, Garnett set a very lofty goal of keeping opponents to under 80 points — which is more realistic for a single-game mark, but nonetheless an example of how Garnett sets bars. More importantly, he has already made an impression on Brook Lopez, the mild-mannered center who could benefit most by being exposed to Garnett’s mean streak.
Other Garnett preseason goals:
1. Turn Brook Lopez from a mild-mannered comic book fan into "The winner of the Nobel War Prize."
2. Finish the regular season 79-3.
3. Make every Brooklyn home game "Cow's-blood Facepaint Night."
OK, not really.
Anyway, if those were the exacting standards Garnett was bringing to the table before the season even began, imagine what he must be demanding of Williams—he of the $100 million contract and somewhat checkered past on the coaching-relations front.
To be sure, much of Williams’ spotty play in recent seasons can be chalked up to the bevy of recurring injuries, most notably the chronic ankle issues.
Garnett wants to hear less than none of this, of course. It’s the playoffs. Unless your head literally falls off your neck and no duct tape can be found, you should be playing.
So long as D-Will’s head remains intact, however, he can expect regular earfuls from his lanky, demon-eyed teammate-inquisitor—especially if Saturday’s results become anything resembling the norm.