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Kevin Garnett's Act Takes Another Unfortunate Turn

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2015

Elsa/Getty Images

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett has a longstanding reputation as one of the NBA's most controversial on-court instigators. 

Participation in physical proceedings has long been a prerequisite for Garnett's combative ways, and the story was no different when he was ejected barely four minutes into Monday night's 113-99 loss to the Houston Rockets.  

In the first quarter of the showdown, Garnett hit Dwight Howard with a quick shove before the Rockets big man retaliated, leading the Big Ticket to pelt his opponent with the ball prior to engaging him with a headbutt to the jaw, which is when things escalated: 

Upon official review, Garnett was sent to the showers and Howard was slapped with a technical foul. 

As CBS Sports' Matt Moore noted, Garnett's intimidating tactics designed to provoke an incendiary response were nothing new for the 38-year-old: 

However, the scrap was particularly noteworthy because of Howard's public declarations of admiration for Garnett as a teenager, according to ESPN.com's Mike Mazzeo

I mean, part of the reason I have the number that I have (No. 12) is because of him (Garnett used to wear No. 21). I wanted to be just like him coming out of high school. When I was in high school I think I went to see him play one time, and it's just crazy because you watch the game, you don't see nothing special sometimes, but he'll end up with 25 (points) and 15 (rebounds). He's always been that intense guy that's gonna bring it every day at practice, and he really loves the game. And you can tell with his energy and effort. I think this is what, year 19? And he's still playing with the same intensity as year one.

The altercation wasn't the first time Garnett had baited Howard in an antagonistic manner, either. As Howard explained, per Mazzeo, the two went at it during the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals:

"I was hitting him in the stomach and squeezing his stomach, and he kept turning around and hitting me. So I kept doing it just to mess with him. And I didn't feel what he was doing -- like he was hitting me -- but I never felt it. So I just kept doing it, and then he did it, and then we kinda got into it. I was kinda like, 'What you gonna do about it?' Like it was crazy back-and-forth, but it's just fun trash talking. I'll never forget that.

Game 6 of that series represented a tipping point for Garnett as he took a blatant swipe at Howard's arm:  

The purveyor of a long and storied history of physical conflict with a fascinating and rotating cast of counterparts, Garnett has been making opponents' blood boil for the past 20 years.

Just ask Indiana Pacers forward David West, who took exception to Garnett's Lance Stephenson impression earlier this season: 

And don't forget Garnett's ongoing saga with Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah. After Chicago dominated the Nets, 102-84, on Nov. 30, Noah claimed that Garnett tried to bite him within the flow of the game.

"He tried to bite me, man," Noah said, according to ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell. "That's crazy, man. It's unbelievable. Kevin Garnett tried to bite me, man. It's unbelievable. I don't even know what to say."

Fittingly, Garnett responded by evoking the name of Mike Tyson.

"I know how to bite somebody," Garnett said, per Friedell. "Obviously I was messing around in that moment. If I wanted to bite him, I'd have just ... shout out to Mike Tyson." 

Of course, that exchange came just 11 months after Garnett got on Noah's nerves during a Christmas Day matinee at Barclays Center: 

The Nets shouldn't feel special, though. Garnett has a historical affinity for picking on the Big Apple's other franchise. 

Most recently, he was seen tussling with New York Knicks forward Andrea Bargnani in the midst of a blowout December loss last season: 

In his most high-profile Gotham confrontation, Garnett exchanged some trademark trash talk with Carmelo Anthony which led to a prolonged sequence of jawing: 

Things reportedly got personal between the two, as Garnett allegedly made some not-so-pleasant remarks regarding Anthony's wife.

At the time, Anthony responded, saying, "There’s certain things that you just don’t say to men, another man," according to the New York Post's Mark Hale. "I felt like we crossed the line.” 

Since that spat, Anthony has gone on the record to dispel rumors of any deep-seated tiff with his Atlantic Division foe. 

"I don’t have no problem with him," Anthony said of Garnett, according to the New York Post's Marc Berman. "He don’t have no problem with me. We talk. We laugh. We joke. I see him out and abouts. No problems." 

And if we're talking about petulance, Garnett's seemingly childish actions have infuriated more than a few opponents dating back to his days with the Boston Celtics 

Just ask Al Jefferson:

Or Channing Frye: 

Then there was Garnett's role as a provocateur in Game 1 of a 2010 first-round playoff series with the Miami Heat's Quentin Richardson, which resulted in a one-game suspension

Truth be told, the postseason is where Garnett's unique style of antagonism and retaliation has been on display most extensively.

Case in point: Following a Game 4 tussle with Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia in the first round of the 2008 playoffs, Garnett set an absolutely vicious screen in Game 7 as the Celtics dispatched the No. 8 seed in the series' deciding game: 

Garnett has also shown an inclination to repeat past moves over the years, as evidenced by the following exchange with Antonio McDyess from his days with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Monday night's fracas with Howard faintly resembled this back-and-forth:  

As The Washington Post's Michael Lee remarked, this isn't exactly becoming of Garnett, whose three-year, $36 million deal is set to expire at the conclusion of this season: 

Michael Lee @MrMichaelLee

Kind of sad that the twilight of Kevin Garnett's career has been reduced to his antics: https://t.co/SIPljZ2b3R

The Garnett experience has always come bundled with an unpredictable confrontational component, but it was undeniably more palatable when he functioned as a defensive stalwart who churned out double-doubles. 

At this waning stage of his career with the Nets quickly fading out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, Garnett has sadly been relegated to the role of a contentious showman who thrives in moments of chaos. 

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