WALTHAM, Mass. — When the ball goes up for the Celtics’ first matchup with the Brooklyn Nets this season — currently scheduled for Dec. 10 at Barclays Center — Jeff Green will not be thinking about the new heights Kevin Garnett pushed him to reach as a teammate.
Green won’t feel anything, really. If Garnett taught him anything in their short time on the same team, it is that all teammates are his allies and all opponents are his enemies. There are no exceptions, not even the mentor who taught him that lesson.
“It’s not going to be any extra emotions flowing through my body because it’s Kevin Garnett,” Green said Monday. “I already played against him before when I was in Oklahoma. I just had the opportunity to get to know him on a more personal level when I was his teammate, but now it all reverts back to him being on the opposing team and him being, as he would say, an enemy.
“Now, he’s my enemy. That’s how it is. We’re trying to win a game and we’re not just going against Kevin Garnett, either.”
Green’s emotions will not be completely absent, just pushed aside. There is no way he can completely forget or overlook the impact Garnett had on his game, motivating him to become more aggressive and showing by example how to prepare for each practice and game with the utmost professionalism.
Those lessons will be put into practice now that Green is arguably the Celtics’ go-to guy, at least until Rajon Rondo‘s partially torn right anterior cruciate ligament heals.
“Kevin Garnett pushed me to become the kind of player I ended [last] season as,” Green said. “I owe a whole lot to him as far as my focus, my determination and my aggression.”
The biggest thing Green owes him, though, is to go at him full-strength and without any sentimentality. That might be the only approach a competitor like Garnett can appreciate, and may be a symbol that his teachings really did get through.
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