Kevin Garnett: The Big Ticket
Water is still wet. We still breathe oxygen. At the age of 36, in his 6th season with the Celtics and 17th overall, Kevin Garnett is still keeping the dream alive in Boston. The big-3 are no more, and it’s “Rondo’s team” now. Still, it is Garnett that keeps it all together, everything in its place – the way it’s meant to be.
Growing up a Timberwolves fan, for most parts it was taken for granted. The team was going to be built around KG year on after, and were destined to make a big run in the post-season. It never really matured into anything as such, except for a dreamy 2003-04 season. The Wolves finally made it to the Western Conference finals after seven years of consecutive first round playoff exits. The team that was supposed to build on that success however, fell apart. Latrell Sprewell figured a $21 million/3-year contract was not enough to feed his children, while Cassell just wasn’t the same any more. Both of them were sent away. Fan favourites like Wally Szczerbiak didn’t survive. Even within the chaos, there was the “big hope”, the “big ticket”.
Then, on one fine day (July 31, 2007) the hope was no more, as the Ticket had been sold to Boston. The Timberwolves have never had a 30-win season since then, while Garnett has gone on to fulfill his Boston dream. For fans it’s easy to take for granted what you have, and for Celtics fans and Garnett, it may just be the case. If you take a step back and look, you get to see probably the best ever thing to happen to the Celtics since Larry Bird. Garnett is the overwhelming reason for the Green-blooded’s dreams of a championship each year, for the first time since the 80s.
In a recent interview, Rajon Rondo described the absence of Kevin Garnett on the floor in one simple, yet compelling word, “chaos”. Kevin Garnett, even at this stage of his career, is the best defender that the Celtics can boast of and a power forward who can pass from the high post and keep the team functioning as it should be on both sides of the floor. Garnett still crashes the boards like a young deer and provides the team with scoring punches at times when Pierce, Terry or Rondo need reprieve.
Last year in the playoffs, the true value of Garnett came to the fore. The +/- numbers that became apparent with the Celtics were truly jaw-dropping. The Celtics were a combined +121 points when KG was on the court, and -77 when he was off. Averaged out through 9 playoff games, it’s a 22 point differential per game. Teams just don’t win games when there is such a disparity upon the absence of a certain player.
Without Garnett in it, no other five-man rotation that Boston put out last season returned with a positive rating. With Steimsa and Hollins no longer in the squad, Boston has to depend more on Bass and the rookie Sullinger, which has had its set of downfalls. Sullinger is not yet ready to impact the side on the defensive end but giving Wilcox time on the floor may mean handicapping the offensive side of things. This just goes to show how important Kevin Garnett still is to the team.
If you look back at the differences between the Celtics’ championship team in 2008 and the teams that have been assembled since then, the one common argument that arose was: When Kevin Garnett performs, the Celtics more than likely succeed. The Kevin Garnett of today is a more passive creature, more involved in getting others involved. The Pierces and Rondos of the world are greats of the past and the present, but Kevin Garnett is the uber-elite. He’s in the Larry Bird, the Bill Russell class. With Garnett posting a 20-10 in a match for the Celtics, they are 40-6 all time. For Boston to go all the way, the Big Ticket has to play at that anointed allegorical level.
With all that said and done, Garnett’s impact reaches far beyond any statistical analysis. The field where science is yet to flex its powerful muscles, the “intangibles” is where Garnett’s biggest claims to glory lies. He is the endeared spirit that envelopes the Celtic nation and allows them to dream. The emotion, the grit and the “do s%#t” attitude characterized by the man in the #5 jersey propels his team-mates to run through walls and the city to believe.
Pierce is the muscle of the of team, the wheels that propels them towards success. Rondo is the focal point steering the team to where it’s meant to go. Then, there is Garnett, the life blood, the system circulating fuel carrying energy to rev up the beast that is the Boston Celtics.
When each possession is played by any player in Green, Garnett’s spirit exudes him to be more. The heart of the Green Nation still belongs to Kevin Garnett. He is still the BIG TICKET.