Garnett's trash talk preps rookies for mental challenges

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Garnett's trash talk preps rookies for mental challenges

ISTANBUL At some point during the Boston Celtics' first practice in Turkey, Kevin Garnett and Dionte Christmas had some terse words for each other.

Christmas' play suffered afterward while Garnett stepped his game up.

On Thursday, another C's rookie, Jamar Smith, had a verbal spat with KG.

Smith's game got worse while Garnett once again, took over.

While some might view Garnett's treatment as picking on the young, he's actually preparing them for what's to come.

Legit title contenders like Boston will be challenged both mentally and physically all season. In order to overcome those hurdles, especially the mental ones, it'll require more than a mentally tough starting five - but a mentally fit 15.

The sooner these younger Celtics understand this, the better their chances become of providing some meaningful help this season.

And while Christmas knew before he signed a non-guaranteed contract with the C's that Garnett's verbal game is kind of like his play - top flight - that still didn't prevent him from becoming frustrated.

"I got a little out of focus (on Wednesday)," Christmas told CSNNE.com. "When I was on the floor trying to get the ball, Kevin was talking and I turned around and we started talking and it kind of knocked me off focus."

And when that happens, it's a wrap.

"When he was talking smack to me, he came down and hit the game-winner," Christmas said. "Once somebody talks (back), that means they just pushed the button on him. And that got him going."

Thursday's practice was a different day, different player (Smith) but the same end result.

"He (Garnett) was talking to another rookie and hit three straight jump-shots," Christmas said.

That's just vintage Garnett, a future Hall of Famer who has seemingly mastered the delicate balancing act between knowing when to push and pull young players with the end result - hopefully - them being tough enough mentally to contribute.

Having enough mental strength becomes even tougher during days like Thursday in which players were still adjusting to the seven-hour time difference not to mention just the usual physical pounding their bodies take during training camp.

"You have tough days as far as the physical, physicality parts of it," Garnett said. "You have to be mentally into it. The young boys won't feel the impact of the mental part of this until we get into the latter parts of the season. The physicality, the travel, those are the things that wear on you a little bit."

But if they can withstand the sometimes harsh but necessary teachings of Garnett, those rough moments won't be too bad.

"Chalk that up as a lesson learned from the vets," Christmas said. "You don't talk, just play. Keep your mind on the task at hand."

Which Christmas has discovered, is a very Kevin Garnett-like way of doing things.

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Report: Jahlil Okafor trade still in 'consideration' for Celtics

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Jahlil Okafor isn't out of the picture for the Boston Celtics.

As the days get closer to the NBA trade deadline, the Celtics are mulling a number of trade options. And the Philadelphia 76ers aren't afraid to shop Okafor, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.

"Okafor is kind of still there," Stein said on ESPN's "Mike and Mike". "He's been so out there that you tend to think Philadelphia will find something in the next three days where they move him. I've heard that Boston has still given that some consideration. Chicago's another team that's been said to have shown some Okafor interest."

In his second season in Philadelphia, Okafor has seen a dip in his production after an impressive rookie season. His minutes have dropped from 30 to 23 per game, which explains his points falling from 17.5 to 11.4 per game and his rebounds falling from seven to 4.8 per game. He's shooting roughly the same from the field, however, and has a 51.1 field goal percentage during the 2016-17 season.

Okafor's season has taken a strange turn in recent weeks. The 6-foot-11 center did not travel with the team to face the Charlotte Bobcats on Feb. 13 amid trade interest. But Okafor then played with Philadelphia against the Boston Celtics in the ensuing game on Feb. 15.

"You can rest assured Philly's going to spend the next three-plus days trying to find a trade home for Jahlil Okafor because once the prospect of a trade has gone that far it's kind of hard to pretend it didn't happen," Stein said. "But at this point, as we stand, Philadelphia doesn't have an Okafor deal. And obviously another (option in) New Orleans, now that's not going to happen."