Celtics

Kevin Garnett's greatest impact? Elevating everything - and everyone - around him

Kevin Garnett's greatest impact? Elevating everything - and everyone - around him

When it comes to Kevin Garnett, statistically speaking, he’s one of the best of our generation and a no-brainer to go into the Naismith Hall of Fame on his first shot at basketball immortality.

But my fondest memories of him have little to do with the 2008 NBA title in Boston or the menacing scowl all opponents were greeted with every game, or even the intensity that he played with every second he was on the floor. 

When I think of Kevin Garnett, I think of how he elevated everything and everyone around him and cared for those around him more than he often let on. 

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Rookies soon found out the guy who was kicking their ass in practice and cussing them out when they didn’t listen is the same dude who would buy them suits at the start of the season because he wanted them to not only learn how to be pros but also look like it.

“He did a lot of good things that people didn’t know,” former Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on more than one occasion. “When rookies came in, he would bring them up to my office. He’d sit them down, and then he would bring his tailor in and say, ‘If you want to be a pro, you’ve got to dress like a pro.’ And he would buy each rookie two suits, and he did it every year. To me, that says a lot about Kevin Garnett as a teammate.” 

One of my first encounters with Kevin Garnett came in the early 2000s when he was in Minnesota and I was in Detroit covering the Detroit Pistons. 

Joe Smith, the former No. 1 overall pick and at that time one of KG’s best friends, was returning to Minnesota after a one-year stint in Detroit. So, naturally, the three of us reporters traveling with the team were waiting in the locker room to talk with Smith at the team’s morning shoot-around. 

Out of nowhere, KG came in, nodded to us before saying, “I’ll be with you guys in a minute.” And we were like, ‘uh … OK.”

He must have spent 15 minutes talking to us about his relationship with Joe Smith, the importance of friendship and trust and family, respect for the game … it all made sense to me at that moment. If you are a competitor, there is no better teammate in the world than Kevin Garnett. 

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“He’s the best, man,” Chauncey Billups, a former Celtic and Piston and — maybe most important — good friend of KG’s, told me back then. “He’s a great player. Everybody knows that. But as a teammate? They don’t come any better than KG.”

Indeed, Garnett is passionate about everything it takes to play basketball at the highest level. I have always felt there’s a short list of elite players who fall under the category of five-tool talents who can score, rebound, defend, pass and make their teammates better — all at a high level. 

In all my years of covering sports, KG is the only player I have ever been around who had Hall of Fame-caliber skills in all five of those categories. 

And since he has retired, we have chatted a few times about his days in Boston and how he’s getting used to his new role on the other side of the camera. 

More smiles now, but the intensity to be his best? It’s still there and then some.

Now, he’s off to the Hall of Fame where he will finally be in the company of those whose passion for the game is close to his own, men and women who for years Garnett appreciated for the paths they blazed for him and so many others who have come and will continue to come after him. 

Cedric Maxwell 'absolutely loved' seeing Celtics players step up, lead call for change

Cedric Maxwell 'absolutely loved' seeing Celtics players step up, lead call for change

Several Boston Celtics players have been leaders in calling for change and participating in peaceful protests in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis last week.

Celtics guard Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours from Boston to his home state of Georgia to lead a peaceful protest in Atlanta. Celtics centers Enes Kanter and Vincent Poirier, as well as guard Marcus Smart also took part in peaceful protests Sunday in Boston.

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Cedric Maxwell played for the Celtics from 1977-78 through 1984-85, and he's spent most of the last two decades as a radio analyst for the team. He's very happy that these Celtics players are stepping up in this crucial moment.

"I absolutely loved it. It was fascinating to see," Maxwell said on "Arbella Early Edition" on Tuesday night. "Jaylen Brown -- I love what he did, to drive down 15 hours going to Atlanta. The only thing that disappointed me about Jaylen Brown was the fact that he did not have a mask on. If you're going to lead, you've got to lead on every aspect.

"I have just marveled at that, the fact that you have our players, like my family, my kids, are doing something that's so positive that they don't have to do. And they're showing the fact that they're connected to this community. That to me, is just -- that's what it is supposed to be about. Players during my era, we weren't connected like that. Now that these guys live in a city, they live and breathe and do the same things the city does."

NBC Sports Boston Celtics Insider A. Sherrod Blakely isn't only impressed with the players doing their part to bring about change, he's encouraged by the message from coaches like Brad Stevens on how they can play their own role in fighting racial injustice.

"The thing that jumps out to me about the Celtics isn't so much the players who are stepping up, but those around them, the Brad Stevens' of the world," Blakely said. "On his call with reporters earlier today, the one thing he talked about that really kind of resonated with me were the conversations that he was having with other white coaches in the NBA. He talked about how they can't just have empathy for players -- the black players and black coaches and the assistants.

They have to be part of what drives change throughout this time. I thought that was really important for him to acknowledge that, that they can't just be on the sidelines saying, 'We feel so bad for you guys, we're so sorry.' No, you have to be part of the process that brings about change, and I think the simple acknowledgement of that being their role, that to me is the beginning of things turning around.

"When you look back at the Civil Rights movement back in the 1950s and 1960s, as much as Dr. Martin Luther King was at the forefront of that, there were a lot of white people who helped elevate that platform to another level. I think if we're going to get the kind of systemic change that we're talking about, that has to happen among the NBA family as well." 

Brad Stevens, NBA coaches have 'power and platform to affect change and will use it'

Brad Stevens, NBA coaches have 'power and platform to affect change and will use it'

NBA players have been the most outspoken group of professional athletes when it comes to raising awareness following the killing of George Floyd by ex-police officer Derek Chauvin last week.

Their voices and their platforms — while helpful — won’t be enough. 

They need allies and the league’s head coaches are ready to do their part in bringing about systemic change. The National Basketball Coaches Association has formed a committee on racial injustice and reform.

“We have the power and platform to affect change, and we will use it,” the group said via statement. 

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Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said all 30 NBA coaches were on a call recently.

“One thing that I heard from a number of coaches, as white coaches we have a lot of responsibility here,” Stevens said. 

Like the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, bringing about the kind of wide-ranging, systemic change that so many are now championing can’t be done by one person or one group. 

“We may not be able to know the depth of the pain of colleagues that are black or players that are black, our assistants that are black, but we have a responsibility to not only be empathetic but also help drive change,” Stevens said. “You saw in the coaches association statement; you saw in the Celtics statement. We have all been in these conversations before. And you’re moved to drive change and sometimes actionable steps lead to what you think is progress but this sure doesn’t look like progress."

Stevens added, “What we need to do is play our part and make sure we’re part of long-term, sustainable change.”