KG: The Tongue of Destruction?
by Sandy Dover / @San_Dova
Look, I don’t know what Garnett actually said to Villanueva, or why a future Hall of Famer keeps lowering himself to front-running trash-talk sessions with mediocre players on lottery teams during blowouts.
–Bill Simmons, ESPN – Grantland.com
Kevin Garnett, the Boston Celtics’ full-time power forward, part-time center and No. 1 spewer of seditious, slanderous smut, failed to lead his team to the Finals this past year. He was healthy as he could be, presumably. He wasn’t lacking so much in ability, but his mouth was closed a little more often. Strange, because that mouth had been going for the previous three seasons, from 2007-10, as he paraded around, purposely starting confrontations that seemed to fuel his green faithful into the glory march of seasons past.
Between picking on players nearly a full foot shorter than him and perimeter guys, players like Jose Calderon, for instance, I assume KG felt that it wasn’t the lowest he could go. Somehow, he decided that burdening another player (Charlie Villanueva) with the implication that he was stricken with a deadly disease was something that was appropriate. Kevin didn’t make any more real waves after this incident, but it was the spark that led to a lot of conversation, including my own with friend/scholar Chad Pemberton, a columnist for the Huntington (WV) Herald-Dispatch and the managing editor of sports and entertainment site Blog Dudes, who chatted with me in the aftermath of KG’s disruption:
Chad Pemberton: KG (shaking my head)…
Sandy Dover: It’s just too much, he’s gone too far. Even if he said CV was “cancerous,” that’s still so unnecessary.
CP: Let’s be honest: he didn’t say, “You’re a cancer to your team in the League.” That doesn’t even make sense, structurally, within the context of trash talk! The phrase is too long and too calculated. He was completely out of line, though.
SD: It’s interesting because I wonder how he’ll be remembered later.
CP: I think it’ll blow over.
SD: He was the fan favorite in Minnesota, and now he’s sort of an understated villain.
CP: It’s interesting that you broach that subject. Allow me to explain…Garnett was a fan favorite, because he stayed “loyal” to Minnesota. He never griped about leaving, and in many ways, he toiled away the prime of his career under the mediocrity of Minnesota. So, he eventually cashed in his chips and joined the “Big Three.” He won a ring. Finally. But, now he’s seen as a villain in some ways.
SD: But see, I feel like he’s a bully now. This stuff wasn’t reported in those yesteryears and he wasn’t demonstrative like this.
CP: Could his bark be over-compensating for his diminishing skills? … So, I ask you: Garnett has become a villain these last couple of years? And we ask: How will he be remembered? Well, is it possible that this is who Garnett has always been? (We measure him on the Minnesota standard, “The Big Ticket,” the proverbial hometown hero.) Boston presented him with a forum to reveal himself for who he truly is, so to speak.
“Kevin Garnett lost it. He was cursing me out for no reason. Maybe because Stoudemire gave him 39 points, but take that vulgarity to Stoudemire. I’m not holding you and I did not even say s— to Garnett the whole game. That really surprised me. He lost it. He was cursing at me the whole game. He needs to calm the f— down. …Garnett needs to calm the f— down. There’s no reason he should be cursing at me the way he did the last game. So you can put that in the article. It was disrespectful and I would never do nothing like that to him. …I’m not even playing and I didn’t say nothing to him the whole game anyway. So if you’re mad, start cursing out STAT, Stoudemire. But you’re not going to do that s— because Stoudemire’s not going to take it. So he cursed at me and I’m 5-6½, 150. What he was saying was worse than Reggie Miller. It was uncalled for.”
–Spike Lee, via ESPN
“Garnett is a punk and a coward. I know, I know. Easy for me to say behind this column. Don’t worry, I’ll tell him to his face, too. And I’m not the only one who thinks that: If you’re not on his team, chances are you hate the guy. You can learn a lot about him by watching his eyes. If he’s talking to you—and he’s always talking—he avoids eye contact. My advice to other guys in the League: Stare him down, and he’ll retreat. From what I’ve seen, he’ll never mix it up with a player who’s bigger than he is. Personally, I think he’s scared to fight—like a playground bully who barks but doesn’t bite.
“Show me a trash-talker, and I’ll show you a winner…unless his initials are KG.”
–Player X (a shrouded NBA star who discloses the unfettered truths and thoughts from the NBA locker room), via ESPN Insider
Ultimately, his mouth shut a little more often, and with the Oklahoma City Thunder absconding away with the Celtics’ sacred cow in Kendrick Perkins, it now appears that Kevin’s lack of verbal protection and muscle could’ve been a vital part of the Celtics’ stumble and fall from crowning glory. And since then, The Big Ticket finished the 2011 season in silence. His wall of protection gone, Garnett seems more like a unfortified city, unable to protect itself with flaming arrows to shoot atop its weathered stone, for the stone fortification was no more, and he was left with nary a disdainful word to leave his lips. You have to wonder about him. He strangely seemed to become infamous in 2007, when he finally recovered from his post-2004 Timberwolves collapse and joined another real competing team. I had watched Kevin pretty closely since 1995. He jawed at opponents here and there, but he wasn’t quite the jerk that he had become.
Perk The Jerk leaving, though? It hurt Kevin’s intensity, which hurt the Celtics. For some reason, acting like a maniac can be motivational for a team looking to win the Championship, and he certainly has been maniacal. Could it be that Kevin is like a school bully who has his gang of fearful cronies parading behind him? It’s possible. It’s not like Paul Pierce was known as a tough guy, and Ray Allen has long been a model character when it comes to sportsmanship.
I don’t really think it was Kendrick as a player who the Celtics lacked in the Playoffs, production-wise, so much as he was the comfortable pillow that Kevin could lay the rational part of his brain on when he decided to enter the arena for game time. The Celtics lost two vital players in the 2011 trade with Oklahoma City—Kendrick and the crazed man who we identified as Kevin Garnett. For both good and bad, I believe that man is no longer.
Sandy Dover is a published author, fitness & media professional, and a SLAM web columnist & print contributor whose work has been featured and published by US News, Yahoo!, Robert Atwan’s “America Now” and ESPN. You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline and via his website at About.Me/SandyDover.