BOSTON — Kevin Garnett has about as much use for individual milestones as he does for size 7 basketball sneakers. Neither really fits his game.
Still, there was no denying that Garnett was visibly moved on Thursday, when his turnaround jump shot with eight minutes left in the second quarter gave him 25,000 points for his career. A few minutes later, when the achievement was announced over the loudspeakers at the TD Garden, the man who is allergic to individual honors raised his hand to acknowledge the cheering crowd. It was clearly a special moment for the 36-year-old, although it would have meant much less had the Celtics not come out with a decisive 116-95 win over the rival Lakers.
“First priority was the Lakers,” said Garnett, who came into the game six points shy of the mark, which has been reached by only 16 players in the history of the NBA. “I didn’t even notice until, I think, somebody mentioned something in passing [Wednesday] night and it kind of went in one ear and out the other. It means a lot, obviously, to be in a Celtic uniform.”
Adding to the memory for Garnett was the presence of his daughter, Capri, who seldom gets to attend Celtics games. When Garnett holds postgame interviews on TV, he always caps them off by addressing Capri through the camera and telling her — “Boo Boo” — to go to bed. Thanks to the impending arrival of “Snowmageddon,” school was cancelled on Friday and Capri got a front row seat to her daddy making history.
“Thank you for snow days,” a relaxed Garnett said. “She got to come to the game, which was something unusual, so it was great.”
It has become a point of fact that Garnett is one of the greatest defensive big men of all time and indisputably the best in the last 20 years. Yet as Celtics coach Doc Rivers noted, Garnett’s brilliance at that end overshadows his offensive game, which is without any weaknesses.
“You know what’s funny? He’s a great offensive player,” Rivers said. “But he’s so good defensively that you rarely hear about Kevin being a great offensive player. That just tells you how good he is overall. He’s a great passer, he’s a great rebounder, he’s a great offensive player — I don’t know what else there is.”
Garnett’s year-by-year statistics read like that of a video game create-a-player who would be outlawed among your friends for being unfairly stacked. He averaged more than 21 points and at least five assists six straight seasons in Minnesota, and he pulled off the extremely challenging task of leading the league in rebounds while being his team’s lead scoring option — and he did so four straight years. As Houston coach Kevin McHale marveled when his team visited Boston in early January, Garnett may be the career scoring leader among pass-first players.
Since coming to Boston in 2007, Garnett’s overall numbers are down but he is as efficient as ever. He has never shot worse than 50 percent from the field in a season as a Celtic even as age has made him more ground-bound and reliant upon long jump shots. His player-efficiency rating is now merely elite, not superhuman, and is the envy of many centers and power forwards 10 years his junior.
This stuff matters to Garnett. Maybe not as much as the Celtics’ six-game win streak or dousing a traditional rival that had won six of seven before Thursday, but it does matter. Garnett has made it clear that he does not want to just hang around, playing out the string as he nears his 40th birthday. He wants to still matter and not be a drain on his squad.
Garnett, too old? Too overworked, 18 years into his career, to still be one of the best players on the floor each night?
Boo boo, put that idea to bed.
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