Commentary

Ready for liftoff

Garnett puts injury in rearview mirror with season set to get underway

Updated: October 27, 2009, 1:34 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

Kevin Garnett is done talking about his surgically repaired knee.

He made that evident late last week as he swatted away questions about his health like he might block shots playing one-on-one against a toddler. But a reporter put up one more shot, asking Garnett if Celtics fans had any reason at all to be concerned about his health when the 2009-10 season tips off Tuesday night in Cleveland.

"Next question, man," a frisky Garnett snapped back. "Next question. [Expletive] is getting old. I just told y'all, [expletive] is getting real old. Y'all need to come up with some new questions now. Drink a little bit more beer, or whatever gets y'all going to come up with your questions. Come on."

Gently reminded that he's likely to hear these sort of questions much of the season, Garnett just shook his head and said, "Well, you're going to get the same answer then, all right?"

All right.

[+] EnlargeKevin Garnett
Brian Babineau/Getty ImagesKevin Garnett is confident his knee won't be a factor this season. We'll find out starting Tuesday night.

In the world of professional sports, it's impossible to completely trust anything a coach, player or team official says. Few teams will openly acknowledge a weakness -- that's simply not good business.

So when the Celtics insist Garnett's offseason right knee surgery was no more complicated than removing bone spurs, it's easy to see why some would be skeptical.

But the Celtics and Garnett swear up and down that this isn't a Tom Brady situation. Despite rumors to the contrary, the team has held steadfast that Garnett had routine surgery -- though the bone spurs were bigger than originally anticipated -- and there was no further structural damage, particularly to ligaments.

As expected, Garnett recovered in time for the start of training camp. He feels like he answered any health questions on the court in the preseason; he appeared in six games, averaging 12.7 points and 6 rebounds over 21.8 minutes per game.

He also answered those questions off the court back at the start of training camp at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., telling reporters then: "I feel really good, I wouldn't [expletive] you guys if I was hurting. I would tell you. I'm pretty straight up with everything that's going on with me."

So worry about Glen Davis' injured hand. Sulk about the Celtics' inability to re-sign point guard Rajon Rondo before the start of the season. Fret over the potential last run of this new Big Three.

But, if you believe Garnett, the last thing you need to worry about Tuesday is his knee.

If Garnett is hiding anything, his teammates aren't aware (or they're playing along just as well). They, too, seem a bit tired of the health questions.

Asked how he thought Garnett performed in the preseason, Ray Allen dipped into the Dennis Green lexicon: "He is who I thought he was," said Allen. "Who I think he is. I haven't thought any differently."

The truth of the matter is that Kevin Garnett doesn't even have to be Kevin Garnett at the start of the season. Clearly the Celtics have loftier goals.

What's more, the Celtics, even with a frustrating non-basketball injury to Davis two days before the start of the season, are deep with the offseason additions of Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels (along with Shelden Williams, who will help fill Big Baby's void), which should help lessen the load the Big Three of Garnett, Allen, and Paul Pierce need to carry.

Garnett doesn't have to be the sort of player that has averaged 20.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game during his 14-year career. In fact, he's never been that in Boston, where his minutes have been sliced by nearly 20 percent (39.4 minutes per game in 2006-07 with Minnesota to 31.1 minutes in 2008-09) and there's never been a burden for him to carrying the scoring load with Pierce and Allen around.

No, Garnett provides the Celtics a major lift by just putting on that No. 5 jersey.

"Just to see him in uniform and not a suit, that's very positive to everybody on this team," said guard Eddie House. "We're very happy that he's back."

And how has he looked to House?

"He's moving well, even taking a couple of blows to the spot where he had the surgery and it's like he bounced back up," said House. "It's kinda like the Tom Brady effect. At first, he's ginger, he doesn't really know until he gets hit a couple times at first that, 'OK, I can plant. I can throw.' Like Kevin, now he can catch lobs, plant, step back. He's doing everything that Kevin Garnett does."

Which is why he's not answering questions about his health anymore. Garnett feels all limitations this preseason have been from his layoff from basketball (he missed a total of 25 games last season and sat out the postseason), not a result of the knee surgery.

And he could only shake his head when reporters noted a nice pass he made during intrasquad drills during training camp.

"I ain't in my grave yet, dog," Garnett told reporters. "They ain't shot Old Yeller, yet. They ain't took him in the back, yet. I can still make a couple of plays here and there. I know you haven't seen me in a while, but I ain't got that much dust on me."

Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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