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Kevin Garnett: ‘I don’t think guys from 20 years ago could play in this game’

Kevin Garnett

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 14: Kevin Garnett, a finalist for the 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, speaks during a ceremony announcing the finalists at the United Center on February 14, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. 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 Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Kevin Garnett is so old school, the Timberwolves were warned he’d throw their phones in the toilet when he returned to Minnesota in 2015.

But Garnett is also refreshingly complimentary of today’s NBA.

Garnett, via David Marchese of The New York Times Magazine:

The game is at another level.
I want you to get on a court, sprint corner to corner, stop on a dime and shoot a 3. I want you to do 10 of those. Then I want you to focus on how tired you are. Because these players do that for 48 minutes. I don’t think guys from 20 years ago could play in this game. Twenty years ago, guys used their hands to control players. Now you can’t use your hands. That makes defense damn near impossible. Can you imagine not hand-checking Michael Jordan? Naw. The fact that you can’t touch players gives the offensive player so much flexibility. Defensive players have to take angles away and stuff like that. But if you have any creativity and ambition, you can be a great offensive player in this league. The fadeaways, one-leg runners, the one-leg balance shots — that’s stuff that Dirk Nowitzki brought to our game. And now when I watch Joker6 play, it feels like he has taken that Dirkness and mixed it with his own talent. And Steph Curry revolutionized things with being able to shoot it from distance with such consistency. Klay Thompson. Dame Lillard. These guards changed the game. I don’t know if even the guards from 20 or 30 years ago could play in this time right here. It’s creative. It’s competitive. It’s saucy. You’ll get dropped! A [expletive] will cross you over and break your A.C.L. these days. The game is in a great place.

This is a welcome assessment from a retired player, too many of whom are overly defensive of their eras.

It’s also exactly right.

NBA players are more skilled and athletic than ever. Yes, the NBA has become less physical. But with less contact permitted, players must be so much better conditioned to play tight defense throughout a game. That’s especially true given how much better outside shooting is now. So many players – even centers – drill 3-pointers if left open for an instant. Many of them even sink 3-pointers even when contested.

Of course, some former players could adapt to the current environment. Garnett – who was ahead of his time – would translate just fine.

Likewise, some current players would struggle amid more physical play.

But, overall, players are better now. It’s the natural evolution.