Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics: Out to Answer the Critics

Ryan Desmarais@RyanDesmaraisCorrespondent IJuly 26, 2009

BOSTON - FEBRUARY 08:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics celebrates a shot against the San Antonio Spurs on February 8, 2009 at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Spurs defeated the Celtics 105-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Kevin Garnett doesn't need extra motivation.

He doesn't need to be pushed to leave everything on the floor on a nightly basis.

He doesn't need a reason to try to be one of the best players in the world.

But I'm sure the Boston Celtics wouldn't mind if he decided to use some motivation next season.

And he has plenty of it to use. During this past postseason, Garnett quite possibly became the most talked about non-factor in NBA history. He watched from the sidelines as his team made it to Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semis on heart and a never-say-die attitude.

Questions now surround him as he tries to return from a knee injury that ended his season in February and forced him to experience the Celtics' playoff run in a three-piece suit instead of a No. 5 jersey.

Will he be 100 percent?

Will his knee be able to hold up for the entire season?

Is his 33-year-old body going to continue to break down?

All of these questions are perfectly legitimate to ask about a guy whose playing window is closing. Add to the mix that his points and rebounds have dropped over the last three seasons and there's reason to believe that The Big Ticket's game might not be what it once was.

But Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics are out to prove the skeptics wrong.

As the fifth pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, people wondered if Garnett could succeed in making the jump from high school straight into the league. Sure, he was a beast in high school. But did that translate in becoming an impact player in the NBA?

Could he really become the franchise player that teams expect to get when they take a kid in the top five of the Draft?

14 years later, Garnett's a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. The 12-time All-Star has averaged over 20 points and 11 rebounds a game over his career. He's been voted All-NBA nine times and was the MVP in 2004.

He proved the skeptics wrong.

Before the 2007-2008 season, people wondered how Garnett would mesh with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Could they play together with only one basketball on the floor? Who's going to be the team leader? If the Celtics need a bucket to win a game, who's going to take the last shot?

There were questions about how long it would take for the team to build chemistry. People thought it might take a year or two for everything to gel together and for the Celtics to become the favorites for the title.

By season's end, the Celtics owned the best record in the NBA and became the league's model of defense, led by Defensive Player of the Year Garnett. Their teamwork and "Ubuntu" style of sharing and teamwork carried them to the NBA championship.

They proved the skeptics wrong.

Now a new challenge awaits both Garnett and the team. Their championship reign is over. The crown that they failed to defend now belongs to their archrivals. Garnett's coming off a shortened season and knee surgery. Pierce and Allen aren't getting any younger.

Rajon Rondo's name has been mentioned in trade discussions during the offseason. They just signed the aging, volatile Rasheed Wallace to a contract and who knows what's going on in his head night in and night out.

The Eastern Conference has been dubbed as a three-team race as both Cleveland and Orlando have added big-name pieces to help push them over the top. Cleveland's coming off a 67-win season and they still have the best player on the planet in LeBron James.

Orlando dethroned the Celtics on their way to the NBA Finals last season and they may now have the mental edge if the two teams face off again in a seven-game series.

So are the chips stacked against the Celtics? Are there too many obstacles for them to overcome this time around? Is this the beginning of the end for this group? 

Skeptics beware.

Garnett and the Celtics are gunning for you again.


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