There was a different feel to this Kevin Garnett homecoming than the first. No longer paired with Paul Pierce on the Nets, he received a standing ovation from Celtics fans and a smattering of “KG” chants during Brooklyn’s pregame announcements in the Garden, but nothing like the catharsis in January.
Still, the love is there, as it always will be in Boston, and the feeling is mutual.
“It’s always special to come back to Beantown,” Garnett said after a 121-105 loss. “Hearing the little things, it’s very hard to focus. I had to go to yoga this morning, ooh-sah, get my meditation right, stay level. A lot of energy in the building. It’s always great to come back here. I love Beantown. I’m always bleeding green. Y’all know what it is.”
Garnett finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes, but old friend Rajon Rondo who won the night, amassing 13 points, 12 assists and seven boards in 30 minutes. “Rondo was classic,” added Garnett. “I don’t know what he said he was at — 89, 83 percent? That was a hell of an 83 percent.”
Rondo returned the favor. “It was special again going against KG,” he said. “He’s like my big brother. He hit me a couple times on the pick, but he didn’t hit me as hard as he was hitting Avery [Bradley]. He nails guys on the pick, and I’m used to him nailing guys for me. It’s always great to play against the guy, especially since it’s his 20th year.”
Garnett begrudgingly paid respect to another old friend he would’ve rather not seen: Gino. So often staring at the Jumbotron, disco dancing in Celtics sweats at the end of blowout wins from 2007-13, KG retreated to Brooklyn’s huddle and didn’t even glimpse at the long-haired man who brought him so much joy.
“Listen, I was so upset. I didn’t even get to really, really get Gino in my system. My low moment for the night, you know what I mean? Gino is a big part of me, and I didn’t even get to celebrate it, but I’m still a huge Gino fan.”
KG didn’t just reserve praise for Rondo and Gino. The newest C’s stars also earned his respect.
“Their schemes were very clever,” he said. “They do unorthodox things, such as putting a big in the corner and having a big roll. That’s a lot of pressure on the smalls. My hat goes off to coach [Brad] Steven and his schemes. They played well. They shot the ball really well tonight.”
And of Marcus Smart, the rookie whose defensive intensity brings back recent Celtics memories, KG added, “The kid’s very impressive. This is my first time seeing him live, playing against him and stuff. He and Rondo and Avery, that’s going to be a tandem. I can’t wait to watch some of the games. They played great tonight. They seem to have a nice chemistry together. Hopefully they can be consistent with that.”
Yup, everything felt different in KG’s second return. Basketball in Boston has moved on.