Kevin Garnett has his head down a little, listening intently while Adam Sandler and Josh and Benny Safdie talk about their new movie, Uncut Gems. It’s out of respect that Garnett’s eyes are low, giving Sandler his time to speak.
But then, after nearly six minutes, the conversation shifts to Garnett and he springs to life, just like when he was hooping. Animated, thoughtful, honest—KG’s demeanor is unchanged, whether on the court or off it. He commands the room, with the full attention of Sandler and the Safdie brothers.
The flick centers around Sandler’s character, a jeweler in New York that can’t stop making bets on sports. Garnett, who plays himself in the movie, runs into Sandler’s store and develops a relationship with his character. It all goes to hell after that, when Sandler’s character places a bet on Garnett and the Celtics during the 2012 playoffs.
Garnett speaks about how the movie, and the betting that takes place in everyday life, has given him perspective as a former professional athlete.
“You’re not thinking about things that doesn’t confine what you’re doing and the objective out there,” KG says. “It’s just funny to hear. It’s funny to us. But theses are life-changing things that people are doing.”
Sandler says that the cast and crew spent a whole lot of time with former gamblers who lost everything, from money to houses to relationships with their families. He says that they ran the gauntlet of research, investigating the worlds of jewelry, gambling and sports.
The movie reaches extremely high-highs and extremely low-lows. The Safdie brothers had a few different ballplayers in mind throughout the production process, including Joel Embiid and Amar’e Stoudamire. They got connected to Garnett one day during the nearly nine-year film development stage. A one-hour phone call was scheduled, but that one hour turned into three because their chemistry was immediate. Garnett was messing with them and Josh and Benny, who grew up as diehard Knicks fans in Queens, felt a connection right away. And when Garnett got to work with Sandler for the first time, it felt easy.
“Even talking to Adam, it was like having a conversation with Adam,” Garnett says. “It didn’t feel like a script.”
“You were incredible,” Sandler says to Garnett. “He was so focused in on every moment,” he then says aloud.
Garnett, as he’s shown he’s capable to, goes in-depth following that.
“Acting is preparation, just like anything else,” the Hall of Famer says. “And coming into this I didn’t want to fail them. They took the risk on me being in here, playing this part. I figured you got a list of people you could pull for this. The least you could do is come in here and be professional, be prepared. Everyday I come in here and I sit in my room and it took me back to just Rasheed Wallace or Tim Duncan and watching film and I did those same things. I came in here, when I showed up to set, I was ready, I knew what I was doing. Someone once told me in television know where you’re going when you come out of the driveway, so I had direction on what I wanted, the energy, what the scene called for, all of that. I was totally ready.”
And he had to be ready because Uncut Gems is a nonstop, tension-filled rollercoaster ride. It’s not meant for the weak. It’s for the hitters, the dudes like Garnett and Sandler that have been winning for decades.