Kevin Garnett Proving Intensity, Team Attitude As Hard to Copy As Physical Attributes


Kevin Garnett Proving Intensity, Team Attitude As Hard to Copy As Physical AttributesThe 2003 draft profile for Chris Bosh, a freshman out of Georgia Tech, oozed with comparisons to Kevin Garnett. The unnatural athleticism and guard-worthy skills in their long, wiry frames made the two so similar, Bosh readily admitted to patterning aspects of his game after the then-eight-year veteran.

Nine years later, Bosh has put together a nice career for himself. He was taken fourth overall in that draft and subsequently finagled a sign-and-trade from Toronto to the Miami Heat as the third fiddle to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, as you might have heard. Bosh has made seven All-Star teams and stands within two wins of helping the Heat win a second straight Eastern Conference title.

Yet, the abdominal injury that has cost him much of the postseason aside, there is little doubt Bosh is no Garnett. Neither was Darius Miles or Tyrus Thomas or Al Jefferson, who had the misfortune of being traded for Garnett in 2007, or any of the other handfuls of players who have drawn comparisons to The Big Ticket over the years. As Garnett is proving in the 17th season of his illustrious career, there was more to making him than a 6-foot-11 body and a consistent jump shot. He remains the exception that proves the rule, that big men with both finesse and tenacity who also manage to foment team chemistry around them are the rarest commodity in basketball.

The Celtics now stand on the brink of another NBA Finals appearance with Garnett playing as well as he has in years. If all he brought were his 19.9 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in the playoffs, Garnett would still be difficult to duplicate. Only two players, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin, posted per-game averages in the regular season that were better than Garnett's postseason numbers.

Except raw numbers are not all that Garnett provides, which is how he received Defensive Player of the Year consideration even though he was not among the top 12 players in blocked shots. His constant talking on defense, not counting the R-rated language, comes straight out of the coaches textbook.

His body is just as omnipresent as his voice. On the final possession of regulation in Game 4, Garnett helped trap James at the 3-point line before dashing back to challenge Udonis Haslem's jumper at the buzzer. If Garnett had not been there — and by "there," we mean "everywhere" — Haslem might have sunk his shot, the Heat could have won that game and this series could have gone much differently.

"Kevin does so many little things," Rajon Rondo had said after Game 3, when Garnett has his best statistical game of the series with 24 points and 11 rebounds. "He does so many intangibles. He's our best communicator. I could go on and on."

And on, and on, and it still might not do justice to how Garnett has affected the ways that even the most seasoned observers view the game. Remember, Don Nelson was supposedly out of his gourd when he stuck a 7-footer by the name of Dirk Nowitzki at power forward in 1999. Garnett had been playing small forward for five seasons at that point. That was how radical Garnett's style was. Hakeem Olajuwon did the "Dream Shake" and David Robinson and Patrick Ewing knocked down 18-footers, but at their core they were still centers. They helped remake an existing position. Garnett virtually invented a new one.

Now every skinny, tall guy with any discernible non-center skills gets compared to Garnett. Anthony Davis, the presumptive No. 1 pick in this month's NBA Draft, has already gotten the label, although at least in his case that has as much to do with defensive considerations as it does with his body type.

These players draw comparisons to Garnett because, almost two decades after his arrival, there still are few players who combine the physical attributes with an inside-outside game at the same level as the 36-year-old. Maybe that should teach us that expecting another Garnett to come along is a waste of time, or maybe, because of wishful thinking, we just can't help it.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.

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