Perhaps the biggest news of training camp (aside from the hijinks involving Nate Robinson) is the resurgence of Kevin Garnett. Everyone has been absolutely gushing about how fast, how quick, and how explosive he looks.
I choose to remain skeptical.
No two injuries are alike and recovery time varies across a wide spectrum. However, most people generally agree that it takes a year removed from going under the knife before one fully regains mobility, confidence, and explosiveness. Most people, however, are not relied on for these attributes as much as Kevin Garnett.
When it became clear last year that Garnett had lost a step many people were concerned with the hit the Celtics’ defense would take. This reaction was expected- after all he is the defensive cornerstone of this team. As the season progressed and the team’s defensive ratings continued to remain among the league’s elite, a more pressing issue relating to Garnett’s loss of mobility emerged; the Celtics’ offensive versatility.
The Celtics offensive sets took a huge hit with KG’s newfound athletic limitations. Gone were the alley-oops, the easy elevation over defenders on the block, and put-backs in the lane. In came the prevalence of elbow-extended long-twos.
When Doc says this about KG:
“It’s night and day [from last season]. I still wish he would take a break in practice more, but that’s a whole other issue that we’ll have to solve. He’s explosive again, especially defensively, and that’s great. He outran guys in our scrimmage earlier, at least three times. Once, he got the rebound, threw it out, and still out ran all the bigs down the floor. He couldn’t do that last year, and even if he could, he didn’t think he could. To me, that’s the biggest change.” (Chris Forsberg, ESPN Boston)
Does it really convince you that the Celtics will have changed that much this year?
To me, this is akin to the Rasheed Wallace training camp talk of yester-year. You know, the “we could win 72 games” talk? We all saw how that panned out. But hell, KG might end up being more athletic, explosive, and mobile this season. I sincerely hope so. The rhetorical question Jeff Van Gundy posed (“[why is Kevin Garnett going up for a rebound with one hand?]“) while commentating on the Finals last year is still haunting.
In order for the Celtics to see any note-worthy improvement, Garnett is going to have to find a happy medium between his numbers last year and the numbers he put up in 2008. Specifically, Garnett is going to have to finish at the rim at a much higher rate. In 2008, Garnett finished shots “at the rim” at a clip of 73% compared to 65% in 2010 (HoopData.com). If that number escalates to around 69% this season, it will probably mean that two tangible aspects of Garnett’s game have returned. 1) He is taking advantage of his opponent one-on-one more; and 2) he’s doing this again:
That may be asking a little much. This, on the other hand, should be expected:
This is a play that spoiled Celtics fans in 2008 and was near non-existent since Garnett’s injury. The Celtics are already respected but if KG can return to this form, the Celtics become feared again.