On the KG silent treatment

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On the KG silent treatment

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

When Kevin Garnett speaks, his teammates listen.

Unless they don't, in which case Garnett never speaks to them again.

Is that a little too cut and dry?

Maybe, but that's the impression we're left with after Doc Rivers' Monday afternoon meeting with the media.

If you haven't heard, after Monday's practice, KG held a private workout at the far end of the gym with rookie big men Luke Harangody and Semih Erden. Admittedly, I wasn't there, but from the video it's obvious that this wasn't your average "workout."

Garnett was coaching them.

Have you ever seen those old Red on Roundball segments from the '80s? You know, the ones where Red Auerbach calmly and playfully runs players through basic drills?

This was nothing like that.

KG was, as you can imagine, KG. He was Mike Singletary meets Rick Pitino vocal, animated, intense and intimidating. He held nothing back as he schooled the pair in the wonders of pick-and-roll defense, regardless of the fact that he likely doesnt know either very well and one hardly speaks English.

Garnett was just his same fiery, unrelenting self. The same KG you see every single time he takes the court.

After the session, Rivers was asked to comment:

"He helps the ones he likes," Rivers said. "Kevin is great. Kevin tries to help every big in here. If that big doesn't listen to him one time, he'll never speak to him again. Literally speak to him. That has happened a couple of times. Those two guys that he did that to are no longer here and that may be one of the reasons."

At first, this hit me as strange. You know, just the thought of the undisputed leader of the Celtics completely ostracizing a teammate literally ceasing to speak to or acknowledge him just because he didn't want to take KG's advice one time.

That sets an awkward tone, creates tension in the locker room and messes with the mind of a guy who's only an injury or two away from having to contribute at a very real level.

Its a slippery slope, too. What if theres more than one player on a given team who doesnt listen? Does KG just stop talking to all of them? That can't be good for business.

But the more I thought about it, and honestly, it didn't take me very long to flip flop, the more I understood KG's actions.

First of all, Kevin Garnett is arguably one of the 25 greatest players in NBA history.

I think we forget that sometimes. Or maybe that's just me.

I don't know if it's the fact that I never got a chance to see him enough in his prime, or if my memory's been clouded by watching him limp through the entire 2009-10 season, but sometimes I misremember just how legendary the guy is. Were talking literally one of the all-time greats. To his credit, he's more than embraced the concept of Boston's Big 3, but the truth is he's in a different league than Pierce and Allen when it comes to NBA legacy. He is legend.

Over the course of his career, Garnett has certainly had to come to grips with the fact that most, if not all, of his teammates will be less capable than him on a physical level. And he probably knows that just as few can ever match him on the mental level. Like all superstars, he's adjusted his reality and learned to be more tolerant and understanding of other players' abilities.

But the one thing Garnett doesn't, and never will, tolerate are players who don't share his drive for self-improvement. The need to get better and be better and do whatever it takes to get there.

And if you're unwilling to take advice from Garnett regardless of his tone, or the circumstances then that's proof you don't have what it takes. I mean, it's not like the guy's advising you on which girl to marry or which car to buy. He's trying to teach you a specific skill that a) directly affects your life and b) he understands better than just about and anyone in the world, and you can't swallow your pride? Then KG has no use for you. Especially at this point in his career; especially considering what he has with this Celtics team.

Garnett loves basketball, but he still treats it like a job. His job is to win, and he's more driven to achieve that than maybe anyone who's ever played.

But this is a team game; Garnett knows he can't do it by himself. So he builds an army of guys who can best help him do that. He instills in them the values, priorities and motivations that he knows will give them the best chance to get there, and prays to God it sticks.

When KG's coaching up Erden, Harangody, Mikki Moore or Patrick O'Bryant, he's not looking for a new friend, or a new partner in crime or even to mold a future NBA All-Star. He's looking for pieces to his championship puzzle. He's looking for the guys who get it; the guys who are smart enough to let him make them better.

Not every player is built like that. Not everyone has the mental toughness, confidence, dedication and drive to exist in that atmosphere. But if you don't, you just don't have a place on Kevin Garnett's Celtics. And you probably dont have any place in this league.

So, yeah, in a perfect world, would you like KG to look past the shortcomings of his less-capable, more-dogmatic teammates, play nice and keep everything kosher in the locker room? Sure. But in this world, asking for a different Kevin Garnett is asking for a different Boston Celtics team.

And considering where they were before he showed up, that's a world no one except for the likes of Mikki Moore and Patrick OBryant is ready to deal with.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Celtics report card: Isaiah Thomas gets high marks

Celtics report card: Isaiah Thomas gets high marks

BOSTON -- The first quarter of the NBA season is about over for the Boston Celtics, a team that like so many in the league is far from a finished product.
 
When you look at where this team is versus where they could be if not for a slew of unfortunate injuries to key players, there’s a sense within the organization that they have weathered the early season storm and are in good shape going forward.
 
And while there’s plenty of fodder that would help explain away some of the team’s early season issues, the bottom line is the Celtics have been an inconsistent bunch at times regardless of who has been healthy enough to play.
 
Still, they Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season, third in the Eastern Conference and by all accounts are nowhere close to being as good as they should be this season. Which is why the evaluation of this team has to be about their sum parts as well as their individual success. 

And with this group returning so many key performers from a year ago along with adding Al Horford to the mix, expectations were realistically high.
 
So naturally, how close they have come to achieving those expectations is a factor in both their collective and individual grades as well.
 
Here’s a grade breakdown for the Celtics’ guards, wings and bigs at the quarter-way mark of the season.
 
GUARDS’ OVERALL GRADE: B
 
ISAIAH THOMAS: Showing last season’s all-star appearance was no fluke, Thomas has made a strong case to be considered among the top guards in the NBA. His 26.3 points per game ranks ninth in the league, and he’s at his best in the fourth quarter (his 7.9 points which trails only Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard) – a trait that often separates good players from great ones. He’s the star of this team, without question. GRADE: A-

AVERY BRADLEY: The season began with Avery Bradley putting together a legit campaign to be a first time all-star. He’s still playing at a relatively high level, but he’s no longer deeply entrenched in that conversation in part because the Celtics haven’t won more games and his numbers have tailed off. After averaging 18.5 points and 8.6 rebounds through the first 10 games, Bradley’s numbers since then have been 16.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. But to Bradley’s credit, this was yet another season in which he came back and showed tremendous growth in a specific facet of his game. That would be rebounding. The 6-foot-2 guard is currently the Celtics’ leader with 7.9 rebounds per game. GRADE: B
 
MARCUS SMART: He is the Celtics’ best defender not named Avery Bradley, and before his career is over he will be named to one of the NBA’s all-Defensive teams. His shot-making remains sporadic, although he has shown a knack for hitting big 3s late in games. Shooting struggles aside, his defense and much-improved playmaking have been good for the Celtics this season. GRADE: B- 
 
TERRY ROZIER: He was so impactful this summer and in training camp, it created expectations that he could easily slide in and fill the void left by Evan Turner who signed a four-year, $70 million deal with Portland during the offseason. Rozier has a ridiculously high assists-to-turnover ratio, but he doesn’t make as many impactful plays as the Celtics would like. The second-year guard hasn’t been bad out there, but the difference-making talent he showed earlier has not materialized yet. GRADE: B-
 
DEMETRIUS JACKSON: My initial thought was the sample size is too small to give Jackson a grade. But looking back at the three games he has played in for the Celtics as well as those stints in the D-League, Jackson has a bright future in this league. To his credit, he has made the most of his opportunities to play whether it’s with the Celtics or the Maine Red Claws. Still, he hasn’t done enough to knock any of the team’s more seasoned guards out of the rotation … yet. GRADE: B-

WINGS’ OVERALL GRADE: B-
 
JAE CROWDER:
This is one of the tougher players to grade (see Al Horford). I absolutely love the fact that Crowder is such a jack-of-all-trades kind of player who is all about helping teams win. But the fact that he has missed eight games has to be factored into his grade thus far. Aside from missing games with injuries, there’s a lot to love about Jae Crowder and his role on this team: B+

JONAS JEREBKO: Aside from Isaiah Thomas, Jerebko is probably the most improved player who was on the roster a year ago. He doesn’t take many shots, but when he does he makes them at a ridiculously high rate. And his overall effort defensively and on the boards has solidified a spot in Brad Stevens’ regular rotation. GRADE: B+
 
JAYLEN BROWN: There are always off-the-charts expectations when you’re a high draft pick, and Brown is no exception. But he joined a playoff-ready team which means getting on the floor as a rookie has not been easy. Brown has shown tremendous athleticism and a willingness to learn, but like most rookies he hasn’t been as consistent as he needs to be and does more thinking than just playing when he’s on the floor. But he has shown progress on that front of late.  GRADE: B-

GERALD GREEN: Having signed a veteran’s minimum contract at a time when the salary cap exploded should have been the first sign that Green wasn’t going to make much of an impact. He has a very simple job with this team and that’s to be an adequate defender and a shot-maker. Unfortunately, he has struggled on both fronts in his second tour of duty with the Celtics to the point where he has not played in eight of Boston’s last 11 games. GRADE: C-
 
JAMES YOUNG:
He barely beat out R.J. Hunter for the final roster spot and frankly, hasn’t done much since. From the time he arrived in Boston until now, there’s no question he’s a better player. But the former first round pick still hasn’t done enough to secure a spot in the rotation. And barring a couple injuries, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. GRADE: C-
 
BIGS’ OVERALL GRADE: C+
 

AL HORFORD: There was a tremendous amount of hype surrounding Boston signing Al Horford in the offseason. And to the surprise of many, the Celtics have been exceptional when he has played. But that’s the problem. He has missed half of the still-young season primarily due to a concussion. There’s an old saying that one’s availability can be their best ability. And with Horford missing so many games, those absences have to be factored into his grade thus far this season. GRADE: B+
 
AMIR JOHNSON: If there’s one player whose impact can’t be measured in statistics alone, it’s Johnson. His job is to defend at a high level, score once in a while, and grab a few rebounds when he’s not sealing off his man so that Avery Bradley and the rest of the team’s guards can come in and scoop them up. There’s no glory in what he’s tasked with doing other than the knowledge that it’s important to winning. And to some degree his impact on games is limited due to him playing limited minutes because of Boston’s desire to spread the floor with long-range shooters – something that’s definitely not a strength of Johnson’s game. GRADE: B-
 
KELLY OLYNYK: Olynyk missed the first six games while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He has had some really impressive moments (19 points vs New York; 16 the following night at Indiana), but far too often he doesn’t make the most of what sets him apart from most players and that is being a 7-footer with legit 3-point shooting range. He has been solid, but he’s not having the kind of breakout year the Celtics could really benefit from this season. GRADE: B-
 
TYLER ZELLER: There were some who were surprised the Celtics signed Zeller to a 2-year, $16 million contract (team option on second year), but that’s actually below the going rate these days for a backup center. Zeller today isn’t all that different than he was when the Celtics acquired him via trade a couple years ago. And that’s kind of the problem. He’s looking to shoot the ball more facing up and from the perimeter, but that’s very much a work in progress. To his credit, he stays ready and when he does get a chance to play he usually gives good effort. But effort can only take you so far. GRADE: C
 
JORDAN MICKEY: Viewed by many (self-included) as a draft-night steal for the Celtics, Mickey’s growth has been OK but not great. He has great instincts defensively as a shot-blocker and his offensive game is definitely trending upwards. But he doesn’t do enough of the little things to get on the floor with consistency just yet, which is why his most recent D-League stint probably won’t be his last this season. But again, he still has legitimate upside and in time should get more opportunities to help. GRADE: C

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

BOSTON -- Compared to most high draft picks, Jaylen Brown doesn’t log a ton of minutes for the Boston Celtics.
 
Playing on an experienced team with legit hopes of making a deep playoff run, rookies seeing limited minutes is a given.
 
Knowing playing time will come in a limited supply, Brown understands all too well the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity he gets on the floor.
 
He did just that on Saturday in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia, and he hopes to do more of the same on Monday when the Celtics take on the Houston Rockets.
 
When you look at Brown’s stat line, nothing about it looks impressive. He played 15 minutes, scored two points with one rebound and one blocked shot.
 
But beyond the stats was the fact that he was on the floor for seven minutes in the fourth quarter in a close back-and-forth game on the road. Rookies on the floor in crunch time is not the norm in the NBA.
 
“It means a lot,” Brown told reporters after Saturday’s win. “I try to be as best I can be for my team; try to put my best foot forward every night out.”
 
And he did just that on Saturday.
 
In the fourth quarter with the Celtics leading 87-83, Brown blocked a Gerald Henderson shot that wound up in the hands of Jae Crowder. Moments later, Jonas Jerebko hit a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics their largest lead of the game, 90-83.
 
And just two minutes prior to the blocked shot, he was out in transition following an Isaiah Thomas steal and threw down a dunk that pushed Boston’s lead to 86-83 with 7:11 to play.
 
Brown acknowledged making the most of those opportunities bodes well for him and the franchise.
 
“It’s great for our team in general; not just for me,” Brown said. “Those plays helped us to pull the game out in the end. So I’m glad we got the win. I think we should have played a little better than we did.”
 
The continued pursuit of self-improvement is a hallmark of what Brown’s focus and desire are at this stage of his pro career. He has talked often about not wanting to be just one of the best in this draft class but also one of the best in the NBA overall.
 
But he’s also learned that to get there takes time and experience developing both physically and mentally. Part of that mental growth entails having the right approach to games.
 
“Usually you try to tell yourself not to mess up,” Brown said. “Now that I’m getting more comfortable, it’s just play basketball, bring energy, things like that; come out and do what you’re supposed to do. A lot of times you try to tell yourself to not mess up and it’s counteractive; just come out and play basketball and have fun.”
 
And by doing so the minutes will come.
 
“You can’t control that. I just have to control what I can control,” Brown said. “I trust coach (Brad Stevens); I trust my coaching staff. I have to come out and in the minutes I get, play my hand as best I can and take advantage of what I do get and impact this team as much as possible.”
 
This season, Brown is averaging 4.8 points, 2.0 rebounds while shooting 41.9 percent from the field.