The Celtics are a different team with Kevin Garnett in the lineup, but according to Danny Ainge, it will take a full-squad effort for Boston to succeed in the playoffs.
"The bottom line is he and Paul [Pierce] and [Rajon] Rondo and Marquis [Daniels] and everybody, I mean, it?s up to all of them to play great," Ainge told the Boston Herald. "I don't think KG is going to carry us by himself, so I don't expect him to. But KG is making his shots and playing the good team defense. Other guys have to help him, too, for us to be successful."
Garnett has played 59 games with the Celtics in 2009-10, two more than he did all of last year. Ainge has seen gradual improvements in Garnett?s play this season.
"I think he?s gotten better as the year's gone along, and I think that he?s playing at a very high level right now," Ainge said. "He's doing a lot of things better. He's shooting the ball better, and I think he's playing really good team position defense. So I think that what he may lack from a couple of years ago athletically he?s making it up in other ways."
The power forward is averaging 14.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, but his numbers do not tell the full story. Garnett provides a defensive presence in the middle and can compete with Eastern Conference centers such as Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard, two dominant bigs the Celtics could face in the playoffs.
Ainge isn't concerned with the team's regular-season record, but he wants to see progress before the playoffs begin next month.
"My whole thing with all these guys is it doesn?t matter where they are today," Ainge said. "It matters where they are in April. I?m hopeful that they?re moving in the right direction, and that?s what I?m seeing."
The Celtics have made progress by winning nine of their last 13 games, getting solid contributions up and down the roster. Garnett has not needed to carry the Celtics during their recent hot streak, and the team will need to continue to make progress if it hopes to make noise in the playoffs.