WALTHAM — In years past, when Kevin Garnett was given a day off like he was on Feb. 22 against the Suns in Phoenix, he might have hit the roof with Doc Rivers.
Not this year.
The Celtics head coach said Monday he is giving more and more time off to Garnett and he believes it’s paying dividends. Indeed, Rivers may have given the 36-year-old Garnett just one game off but he’s giving the big man much more time off from practice, like this weekend when he told Garnett and Paul Pierce to stay away from the gym on Sunday, when the team had a skeleton practice.
“We’ve given him more time off this year than we ever have for him,” Rivers said. “In the past, we couldn’t even broach that subject with him. This year, he wants the days off. So, I think he’s gotten smarter in that regard and that to me is why he’s been able to play in more games.”
Garnett has played in 57 of Boston’s 58 games, averaging 14.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Most significantly, he’s averaging just a tick over 30 minutes a game, which is right where Rivers wants him. It would be even lower if the Celtics hadn’t played a franchise-record 10 overtime games so far, including the epic triple-OT game against Denver on Feb. 10.
“I think the days off have really helped, the subbing, the second year in a row with it, has helped. The 10 overtime games have not helped. That has not gone the way the planned it but it is what it is.”
Rivers also said that he is not paying particularly close attention to the Eastern conference standings in which is 31-27 Celtics find themselves just two games out of the fourth playoff spot, which would assure them home-court advantage and the opening-round.
That’s not to say Garnett doesn’t see value in being in the gym and working up a sweat.
“They’re very important,” Garnett said Monday, before the team readies for back-to-back road games in Philadelphia and Indiana. “You gain chemistry and you gain timing. New guys coming in, you need these practices. I won’t say the days off aren’t great. Practice is essential.”
Speaking of the new guys, Garnett said he’s ready to work with Terrence Williams, DJ White, Shav Randolph and Jordan Crawford as they assimilate the Celtics’ way.
“I’ve always made myself accessible for anybody who needs me,” Garnett said. “It’s no different for this group of guys here to try and make their transition. If I can make somebody’s transition easier, I will.”