But it's never that simple.
Kevin Garnett has finally made his return to the Celtics, after nearly a month of battling a hyperextended right knee. The C's played it safe; they kept a close, watchful eye on their 33-year-old veteran forward, and only when they were absolutely positive he was ready to take the floor, they threw him back out there.
Now he's back, but he's still got some work to do.
"It's good to be back," KG told ESPNBoston.com on Monday. "I'm trying to help. When you're out, you see the game from a whole new perspective. You try to convey that to the guys that are playing, but it's not the same thing as doing it yourself. It's good be back helping my teammates and trying to get something going here."
Those are the words of a true competitor. KG is the kind of guy who just can't bear to sit there watching the game from the bench. He wants to be out there — working hard, competing, winning. It's in his blood. He'll sit on the bench and be the most supportive teammate in the world, but at the end of the day, he'd always rather be on the floor.
And now he's got his wish. He's back, but he's still got some work to do.
Garnett's numbers in his first two games back: 61 minutes, 11-for-21 shooting, 30 points, six rebounds, five assists, two blocks. He's shooting the ball well and he's creating shots from all over the floor. He's made a career out of knocking down that elbow jumper, and he's now relying on that shot more than ever before. But he's not playing like a true power forward; he's not the aggressive, physically intense inside presence that he was two years ago when the Celtics won a title.
Garnett has likened himself to a 1976 Ford Pinto. The car still runs, but it's not exactly fit for street racing anymore. He's had a few adjustments — "the tires changed and the transmission checked," as he puts it — and he's trying to do as much as he can physically.
He's not as versatile a player anymore. He's admitted as much. But that's only in terms of the physical. Mentally, he's as sharp as ever. He's going to be a floor leader for the Celtics even when he can't run with the best of them.
Mental versatility is a key part of his game. He's such an influential player on the Celtics defensively — communicating, directing his teammates, sensing where the opponent will be at all times and knowing how to get him covered. He's more than a great one-on-one defender, more than a great team defender. He's a defensive commander, rallying all four of his teammates together to get stops.
Offensively, he's efficient as always. He can run the point for the Celtics offense, swinging the ball around from teammate to teammate until someone gets an open shot. He's brilliant with his own shot selection — not many guys in the NBA can shoot nearly 55 percent without the ability to get physical inside. His mid-range game is still deadly.
Here's what separates the good players from the great ones. Good players get old — great ones evolve. They know the limitations of their bodies, they work around them and they find ways to adapt their game and keep competing.
KG knows he's not a speed demon. He knows he's not an athletic freak the way he was a decade ago. But he's a great player nonetheless, and he knows how to lead the Celtics to great things.
Physically, he hasn't looked amazing in the two games since his return. But he's still improving, and he's still adapting. Even after 14 years in the league, he's a work in progress.
How far the Celtics can go this season depends on how far Garnett can take them. He can get them all the way to June glory, but first, he's got to re-learn the ropes. There's still plenty of season left — starting now, he's got three months to figure things out.