Garnett: 'It don't take much to motivate me'

687172.jpg

Garnett: 'It don't take much to motivate me'

BOSTON For once, Kevin Garnett failed.

He tried his best to mask the fact that facing Utah's Al Jefferson -- the other central piece in the 2007 trade that got him out of Minnesota and the C's Banner 17 -- was just another game against a young, promising big man.

But when he was asked about added motivation facing Jefferson, Garnett responded, "I wasn't motivated" which was soon followed by an ear-to-ear Garnett grin.

"Next question," he said.

Garnett's play in Boston's 94-82 win left no question that the demise of Kevin Garnett has been greatly, greatly exaggerated.

He turned in yet another stellar performance on Wednesday with a game-high 23 points along with 10 rebounds for his 16th double-double this season -- tops among Celtics players.

It was the kind of performance that is becoming more and more common with Garnett who is playing at a level few expected from him at this point in his career.

"I'm motivated," said Garnett, who will be 36 in May. "I hear y'all calling me old. I hear y'all calling me older, weathered. It don't really take much to motivate me. I'm older in basketball years, but in life I'm 30-something."

With age comes experience and the understanding that on many nights Garnett will play the kind of mind games that often frustrates his younger basketball brethren.

That certainly was the case on Wednesday with Al Jefferson, who had 18 points, but needed 19 shots (he only made seven) to get it. Jefferson's frustration boiled over into the fourth quarter when Garnett's play resulted in Jefferson losing his cool.

The result?

A double technical foul against Jefferson and Garnett.

"One of his Jedi mind tricks worked tonight," said Celtics guard Keyon Dooling. "A lot of times people focus more on antics, and lose sight of a particular possession in the game. His Jedi mind trick worked tonight."

C's coach Doc Rivers knows Garnett's intensity is omnipresent whenever the C's play. But against Jefferson ... Rivers isn't buying it was just another matchup for Garnett, either.

"They clearly have something," Rivers said. "That's how it always is. Al was traded from here and Kevin is here so that will always last. It's good though, it was fun as long as we won."

Although Garnett would not single out Jefferson, there is no doubt that he finds added motivation in ways that go beyond simply wanting to win.

"I don't watch too many of you guy's interviews -- garbage -- but the ones I do catch, it's an opinion and it is what it is, but it puts a spark under me and I like that," Garnett said. "Playing against younger talent that's supposed to be prolific and supposed to be above-average ... but I'm old though, you know? And again, for the third time, it don't take much to motivate me."

Jefferson chalks up Wednesday's game as "Kevin being Kevin."

"It's just him. But I got mad respect for Kevin, great player. He made a way for me, being drafted out of high school, that's all I have to say about that."

Part of Garnett's motivation is internally finding ways to improve his game.

Following the team's loss at Oklahoma City prior to the all-star break, Garnett addressed the team and essentially said every man needs to examine himself and come back ready to play better; otherwise, stay away.

He was speaking to his teammates, but he might as well been talking in the mirror.

Garnett was playing decent basketball before the break, but he knew he too could play better.

"I've been giving myself a true analysis in the mirror, been looking at myself, telling myself, 'what can I do better?'" Garnett said. "I've been going towards that. I know there are some things that I can get better at, and I've been trying to do that."

Garnett has been arguably Boston's most consistent player this season, and has been instrumental in Boston having the third-best record (13-5) since the All-Star break.

"Kevin's been amazing," Rivers said. "I was joking but it's true, but if you had an All-Star vote at the center spot in the league right now, he'd be right up there because that's what he's been since the break. He's a 5 (center) and he's been terrific."

In the 18 games since the break, Garnett is averaging 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 52.4 percent from the field.

Of course part of Garnett's improved scoring has to do with a slight change made by Rivers which has not only helped Garnett offensively, but Rivers believes it has also helped the C's cut down on turnovers.

"The only big we throw it to is Kevin, above the elbow; basically it's that simple," Rivers said. "Before we were running all the elbow offense, but it was any big and we realized that maybe Kevin should be the only (big man) ball-handler above the circle."

But ultimately his success of late -- and that of the C's -- comes down to him not just speaking about improving play, but living it.

"I can't ask a teammate to do something, and look at himself if I'm not looking at myself; that's just me," Garnett said. "When it comes to basketball, you gotta put in your time, you gotta put in your work. You gotta not just talk that talk, but you gotta be able to walk. I'm here. I'm dealing with everything ... but I'm here."

Wojnarowski: C's, Pacers talking Nets pick for George

Wojnarowski: C's, Pacers talking Nets pick for George

Often times reporting something can shake something loose from another source. That might have been the case Thursday morning. 

Just eight minutes after Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the Celtics and Pacers were not in advanced discussions on Paul George because of Boston’s unwillingness to deal the Nets’ 2017 first-round pick, he sent a follow-up saying sources had indicated that the pick was indeed in play. 

George, 26, will be a free agent after the 2017-18 season. 

O'Connor: Zizic would go top-10 in 2017 draft

O'Connor: Zizic would go top-10 in 2017 draft

It seems the Celtics can throw yet another piece onto their treasure trove of assets. 

The Celtics stashed two of their first-round picks from the 2016 draft overseas and in the process have seen 23rd overall pick Ante Zizic establish himself as a very promising NBA prospect. 

The Croatian center, currently playing in the Turkish League, has boosted his stock with a strong season in what’s expected to be his last before joining the Celtics. Appearing on Toucher and Rich Thursday morning, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor said that Zizic has improved to the point that he would be a top-10 pick in the 2017 draft. “He looks really good,” O’Connor said. “I liked him last year when I first watched him. I thought, ‘Good energy big man. He’ll have a solid career,’ but then the more you watch him, the more you see. 

“This year, he’s really taken a step forward. All his strengths look better. All the things he was already good at like screening, rebounding and rim-protection, he looks better. But he’s also starting to flash a little bit of a mid-range jumper, and he’s never had bad mechanics, but now that shot’s starting to fall. So maybe he can be more than that energy big man. Maybe he’s a little bit more dynamic than that. 

“If I’m the Celtics, I value him as you’re getting a top-10 pick this yea. I think he’d go around nine or 10 in this draft.”