Well, the great Basketbawful is indisposed, so it is up to me, Evil Ted, to give you a morsel of basketball thought today.

I got a chance to check out my Celtics this weekend against the Bulls. I wanted to get a sense of what is making Kevin Garnett such an overwhelming positive presence for the Celtics. Is it his size? His intensity? His desire? His maturity and sincerity that commands automatic respect? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

But there's more...

Now he's wearing Celtic green. It’s as if he can feel the spirit of Russell and Bird in those 16 banners, wafting through the rafters of the building they still call the "Garden."

Is there any other explanation? I mean, yes, Pierce and Allen are talented, but without Garnett, this is not a good Celtics team; this is the same 24-58 team plus a former All-Star in Ray Allen. Watching Garnett work the floor against the Bulls, I was reminded of the way Bill Russell puppeteered games later in his career. Russell – no longer the dominant physical presence – would direct and oversee all facets of the game, both offensively and defensively. He was a big man who set himself up at the top of the key with his back to the basket and essentially played point guard, distributing the ball exactly where it needed to go for his cutting teammates. Garnett is performing similar game-direction, but he IS still the dominant physical presence, so when a perfect, brick wall pick needs to be made he makes it, when a teammate’s drive to the basket goes wrong, he is immediately above the rim to slam it home, when an easy basket is lacking, he is there to fire a turnaround jumper as ridiculously accurate as the Jabbar sky hook and as undefendable as the Karate Kid crane kick (later, sadly, shown to be defendable in “Karate Kid II”). In the Bulls game alone KG popped three immaculate and critical jumpers over a leaping, fully-extended Ben Wallace. Each shot was no small feat, but he made each look effortless.

Celtics Bulls Basketball
The Big Three...in One.

Speaking of last year’s 24-58 record, the Celtics are on pace to match, if not better, the Bulls 72-10 record (ok, so are the Spurs - it's early in the season yet). But it begs the question: is KG on his way to bettering Bird on the list of greatest all-time Celtics? One of the first "notable" highlights about Bird is that he was responsible for what was then the greatest single season turnaround in NBA history (from 20 to 61 wins). Last year's Celtics won 24 games. This year, is it not very possible they could win...70? (I'm knocking on wood, thereby negating any stat curse)

That would be a 46-game turnaround. Now, KG has some championships to win yet, but Bird won his three with perennial all-stars Kevin McHale and Robert Parish flanking him. If KG can win even a single NBA championship with this particular team, it would be Bird-comparison worthy - and this comes from a man with a Larry Bird shrine in his basement. Beyond the record itself, the Celts are not just winning games; they are annihilating opponents in surgical and embarrassing fashion, much like their New England area football counterparts.

Despite the early Celtics success, there are still questions:

Question #1: Is this a legitimate Big Three? No. Not even close. This is a Big One and Two Halves, which in a league of watered down mediocre talent, has proven dominating.

Question #2: Does this group have staying power, or is this a Miami Heat-style one-hit-wonder? The Miami Heat’s success relied on a heavy, aging Shaq past his prime to dominate the post. KG is young enough, and physically at the top of his game. He is the piece – far more than Allen or Pierce – that must last, and he will. Further, there is enough new youth in players like Davis and Rondo to give Garnett his needed role players. There is a legitimate chance for the Celtics to maintain “team to beat” status for multiple seasons. Four years? Nope. Three tops.

I asked my dad what he thought of the Garnett signing before the season started, and he not only answered my question, he coined a new term. “If Ainge pulls off a championship, it would be Auerbachian.” Amen, dad. Yes it would be a trade about as amazing as one made by the late, great Red.

It pays to be a competant GM, but if that isn't in the cards, it pays more to be buddies with Kevin McHale. It pays even more to be sexually harassed by Isaiah Thomas - but I digress.

A great number of factors are all coming together for the Celtics at the right time, but make no mistake, Garnett and Garnett alone makes it all happen. Why are young players fully accepting their “role player” status? Garnett. Why is Danny Ainge suddenly potentially “Auerbachian”? Garnett. Why is Doc Rivers suddenly not a completely incompetant coach? Garnett. Why are Paul Pierce and Ray Allen suddenly (and undeservedly) being referred to as 2/3rds of the "Big Three"? Garnett. Hell, even when Garnett is on the bench, you can sense him there, presiding over all that transpires like the Eye of Sauron. Did this happen in Minnesota? No. Is there anything but the aura of Celtic Green to explain it? Not really. Garnett has always been this smart, this good, this motivated. The only difference is he's now surrounded by a ring of singing, dancing leprechauns.

Garnett, unlike so many of today's players, deserves his success. He has integrity and class, and even if he can’t (and never will) compete with Bill Russell in championship prowess, he can most certainly compete on the respect-o-meter. Yes, Garnett has a lot more winning to do before he can be mentioned in the same breath as Russell, or even Bird, but he has the character and talent to be as great as his promise, and perhaps to one day be selling us a new long-distance provider… And if KG brings the Green a championship, I'll gladly switch.

Labels: , ,

Anonymous Anonymous said...
you, my friend are high.

to say pierce and allen are "halves" to garnett's "whole" is lucrious homer talk.

garnett may be better, but getting twenty a night from the "halves" onyour team sure makes KGs job easier.

and lets bring Larry into the conversation when he when a couple playoff series at least.

i agree that the celts will prob win the east, but he has next to zero successful playoff experience.

Blogger Unknown said...
Question #1: Is this a legitimate Big Three? No. Not even close. This is a Big One and Two halves, which in a league of watered down mediocre talent, has proven dominating.

Two halves? I'll agree that Ray is .5 of a person, but how could one think Paul Pierce is not legit? I'll tell you this, I'll take Paul over Ginobili or the vastly overrated Tony Parker... And hell, the way it's looking right now, I'd take Paul over the pouting child that has replaced Shawn Marion in Phoenix.

Blogger Evil Ted said...
Sometimes when you write something, you never know quite what comment is going to tick people off. But I suppose I should have seen that calling Allen and Pierce "Halves" would have been it.

Still, I stand by it. Any team with Garnett makes all other players, by default, role players. Do their talents make life easier for Garnett? Of course, but his presence at both ends of the floor is an enormous boon to all around him in return. Think Rondo's really this good on a no-KG team? I dare say no.

I am confident that if, God forbid, Garnett goes down with an injury for any period of time, my assertion that a KG-less team is less than mediocre would prove true. To this point in the season, KG is, without a doubt, the MVP of the League.

Before the KG trade, even Basketbawful himself was mourning the futility of the Celtics strategy. And he was on the money.

If it makes you feel better: Pierce and Allen are not halves...they're 2/3rds. But they aren't 2/3rds of a "Big Three." Please. If you've ever seen Bird, McHale and Parish play together, you'd know how silly it is to attribute that term to this team. It is a marketing tactic. It sells tickets (that were going to be sold anyway), but that doesn't make it accurate.

Blogger Unknown said...
Still, I stand by it. Any team with Garnett makes all other players, by default, role players. Do their talents make life easier for Garnett?

Ted, this begs the question, couldn't you say the same thing about Steve Nash and Tim Duncan? Think Manu or NoKnees Stoudemire can carry a team by themselves? The Suns and Spurs have been heralded as having a "big-three", and while it might be Stockholm Syndrome to do so, you might as well ignore reality and toss the Celtics in there.

I get where you're going, believe me, I think of a "big three" as actually a big three, like three people that deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Jordan, Pippen and Rodman, thats a big three. Magic, Worthy and Kareem, same. Thats not really the case anymore though, the term is thrown around pretty loosely, and at the rate it's going, pretty soon they'll be calling Al Horford, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith a "big three".

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I have to agree with Evil Ted. A big three today would have to be (advance apologies for mentioning his name without finding a way to poke fun) something like Kobe, LeBron, and Garnett. Allen and Pierce are good players, but not superstars worthly of a "Big 3" name.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I want to see how the Celtics fare against a good Western Conference team. So far they've mostly been knocking around bums in the East (Cleveland with Lebron and Orlando are not included as bums, of course). They are still untested.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Absolutely the same holds true for Nash and Duncan. You can throw both of those teams onto a pile mediocrity without either of those two guys.

Nash has always been extra impressive to me in that he's a point guard, and that the "dominating forces" of today's league (the Shaqs, Duncans, and now the Garnetts) have most often been big men and, though less so, shooting guards.

My point was meant not so much to tear down Pierce and Allen, but to indicate how impressive Garnett's influence has proven to be.

It's nice to see the we can agree that "Big Three" is ridiculous and unnecessary. Frankly, it's an insult to the original Big Three. And it may even be a bastardization of "Big Three" to start talking Jordan, Pippen, Rodman...that term is reserved for dominance of old that this league hasn't seen since the 80's.

And yes, Eric, I agree that we need to see how the Celts fare against the Best in the West. They have not yet been truly tested.

Blogger Dave Fromm said...
It's hard to argue with results, and also hard to argue with what we see from Garnett every time out -- intensity, attitude, effort. Why, then, am I still seeing Garnett pretending to be a good guy and then pushing Tim Duncan -- a noncombatant and alleged pal -- in the back of the head when Duncan attempts to intervene in the mild David Robinson-Joe Smith skirmish back in the 1999 playoffs. Why can I not shake the feeling that there is something slightly artificial about his "intensity"?

He seems like a good guy. Why can't I just let it go?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Agreed the C's haven't yet been tested, though their winning margins are huge which is a good sign.

Don't agree that Pierce is just a role player though. Don't blame last year on him, he only played what? 23 games? Pierce has carried a team by himself (Antoine Walker, no less, was his 2nd best player!) to the Eastern Finals. They even had both 5-game and 4-game win streaks last year when he played.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Sorry, made a mistake in my last comment... Pierce played 47 games last year, not 25. Though he actually carried them to a decent enough record (21-27 by my quick tally), considering he had no help at all (Al Jeff only came on 2nd half of the year).

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Like I said, I wasn't trying to bring down Allen and Pierce. Pierce has had his time, and has taken mediocre teams further than they should have gone.

But no superstar considers 21-27 decent. Pierce, as he is today, on a team with Kevin Garnett, is a role player. A GREAT role player, mind you, but a role player nonetheless. Same goes for Allen.

The great part of this team's chemistry is that its three "superstars" have all had their time to shine as individuals, and now want one thing: to win a championship.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
As someone who watched KG up close and personal until this season, your assessment is a little flawed. KG is a great player. And he brings max effort every night and has universal respect, which makes it easy for other players to accept their roles. But he's also best as a catalyst, which means he needs (desperately) guys like Pierce & Allen around him.

Not just as role players, but as bloodless scoring death machines. As options 1A & 1B in the 4th Q. As guys who will carry the load on offense and manage the perimeter, so KG can relax and handle the block.

Should they be called the next Big Three? Too early to say. But it sounds like Pierce is getting a little bit of the home treatment KG started to get in MN; when he's all you got, you start to just see the flaws instead of the assets. Ray is so unassuming that people forget he's a great shooter and scorer who can handle the rock better than all but a few 2's out there.

But in today's NBA, it's as close to a Big three as you're probably gonna get...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
>But no superstar considers 21-27 decent.

Fair point. What was KG's record last year? Much better?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
If you review my assessment of KG's game, you will see that I compared him to a late-stage Bill Russell, and then proceeded to describe Russell as, essentially, a catalyst.

"in today's NBA, it's as close to a Big three as you're probably gonna get..."

...which is why the term has no legitimate place in today's NBA. You made my point.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
i've always seen two different kinds of superstars - i) numbers players and then ii) mvp candidates

i'd classify pierce and allen as both (i) and garnett as a (ii). it seems as though PP and RA can put up the same numbers year in year out, regardless of their teammates but they're not the type of players that can leave their stamp on a game at either end of the court. to dumb it down a bit, i've never seen them singlehandedly take over a game in any department other than scoring

KG on the other hand, i've always viewed as being capable of all the intagibles. my knock on him is that i've never seen him dominate with clutch scoring, but personally i put more weight on playing your heart out for 47 minutes rather than the one minute of after-game-hooker-and-blow-party-game-winning-shot glory.

i completely agree that KG is the cog that sets this celtic machine in motion. removing him from the equation would be the same as taking away duncan from the spurs or nash from the suns. similarly, if you took away pierce or allen, they're both replaceable with other numbers' stars (t-mac, iverson, marion, stat). thats the difference between stars and mvp candidates

this isn't to say that KG has had overwhelming success over the years. ANY superstar needs a decent foundation of players to build on - and most of those Minny teams were god awful. stick him with 1-2 all stars and we can see him really shine. stick players of the (i) category with any team and you'd hardly notice a difference in their output. maybe a bit more bitching to the media, but not much peformance wise

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Anonymous 1: Good point right back. I'm just saying 21-27 would qualify as "decent" to any player. Mr. Garnett would agree. He's been on some stinker teams - what I have to wonder now is...were the players around him in Minnesota so abysmally bad that his presence made no difference at all?

Anonymous 2: Outstanding comments. Nice analysis. Way to crystalize it....as for "after-game-hooker-and-blow-party-game-winning-shot glory," I'm now officially proud to be a part of this comment string.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I respect your analysis, but Garnett isn't all class.....The T-Wolves did a good job of covering up his classless sucker punch on a potential teammate who schooled him in a one on one game during practice. (you can look it up)

also, I can't see the Celtics getting past the Spurs, but they are still a good team this year.

Blogger stephanie g said...
I have all the love in the world for Duncan, but at this point the Spurs could win rings without him. It would be more difficult, but they're just too deep.

One thing which ultra-competitive alpha male players like MJ, Duncan, and Garnett bring to the table is that they light a fire under their teammates. They won't accept half hearted play and they make sure everyone stays focused down the stretch.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The only comment that ticked me off was the reference to the Karate Kid's "Crane", calling it a scissor kick is at best disrespectful!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
CRANE kick! Dammit. I'm ashamed of myself. That, you will notice, is fixed.

Staphanie, the Spurs would not go anywhere without Duncan. Not a chance.

Anonymous, while I know there there are incidents that come with being a competitor, Garnett has class. Sadly, like the term "Big Three," the term "class" has perhaps been watered down over time. No player, save Tim Duncan, really has that old school dignity that a majority of players did in the 50's, 60's, 70's and even into the 80's.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Pierce = Garnett, and Pierce & Garnett > Allen. But I love Ray's game. Discounting Pierce and his all-around dominant game is foolish and takes away from your literary works that I've come to enjoy ted. Be careful.

Blogger Evil Ted said...
Profilic Big Man looking for a championship + 2 effective scorers looking for a championship + some promising young talent = great team that dominates in a watered low league, or at least a watered down East.

I didn't understand your new math, and I didn't discount Pierce. He scores a lot. Yay. He and Antoine Walker managed to lose to the Nets in the Eastern Finals one year. Big whoop. Reserve terms like "all-around dominant game" for Larry and LeBron, not for Paul Pierce. Hell, I didn't even use "dominant all-around game" to describe Garnett. And I reserve the right to call Garnett a huge bust if this team goes south, to call Pierce a complete bum if this team doesn't tear through to the Finals.

Be careful? Why, do you have a chainsaw or something?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I can't believe you moderated me out evil ted...if starang had a human brian and human tear glands, you would have made starang cry.

Sure, what I had to say did not add anything to the current discussion, and might have been a little childish...but its fact:

East is garbage. Celtics have shown me nothing except they can beat a bunch of garbage teams...and its gonna be a different story when they get into the playoffs and realize they should have rested their 3 players during the season. 3 guys might win a bunch of games during an East coast regular season, but it takes more than 3 to win a playoff series, in any conference. I predict an early playoff exit for them.

As for the other point, the "big three," these guys are in no way a big three, regarding the big three's that you have mentioned.

However, I do wish them the best, because I do like KG, and Allen has been a favorite player of mine for a while. I wish them both the best.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Starang learn to write post that express actual thought. That why Starang not moderated out this time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...
Basketbawful never moderate me out. Regardless of how much me no good. :-(