Garnett on mend from surgery
That was the newsiest nugget to come out of Boston's media day Monday as Garnett pronounced himself almost fully healthy and completely ready -- and even a few pounds lighter than usual -- to make a strong comeback from the right knee injury that prematurely ended his season last spring and forced him to undergo surgery over the summer.
After spending much of the summer rehabbing in Las Vegas, Garnett returned to Boston earlier in September and had been participating in drills with his teammates until a week ago, when he began scrimmaging again.
"It's up and down, man. There ain't no standing around in 5-on-5," Garnett said.
Garnett said his surgery was a bit more complicated than he had originally expected because of the location and the size of the bone spurs that had to be removed -- and the delicacy of removing them without damaging the surrounding structure of the knee.
"No surprises other than the severeness of it -- I didn't know it was that bad," Garnett said. "They evaluate you from A to Z, but until they actually get in there and see what the problem really is, then you know a 1-to-10 on how severe it was. It was pretty severe, but the best thing about is that I got it out of the way, and my leg is almost 100 percent going forward. Better than anything I'm playing without any pain, which is something I really haven't had for some time now."
Asked to elaborate on what he meant by "severeness," Garnett looked down at the interview table in front of him and drew an analogy, saying the bone spurs were expected to be the size of a tape recorder but ended up being more like a microphone.
Coach Doc Rivers said there are no medical restrictions on how much he can use Garnett when training camp begins Tuesday in Newport, R.I., though he said he'll exercise as much caution as necessary once he sees how fluid Garnett's movement is within the structure of a controlled practice.
"They're not spring chickens, so we're only going to go as hard as we need to, and I am not going to overdo it," Rivers said, explaining that the Celtics would refrain from any of the two-a-day practices that are commonplace at most NBA teams' training camps.
Rivers enters camp with two significant additions to the roster -- offseason free-agent signees Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels, both of whom are expected to come off the bench for Boston after playing more significant roles for their former teams. Garnett mentioned how he was awestruck by Wallace after playing for a few days alongside him, saying he was unlike any big man he had ever teamed with.
"In the pickups we've played here, you already see it -- him and I on the same page -- we don't even have to talk a lot," said Garnett, who spoke publicly for the first time since March 25. "I can't even describe it, it's weird. And to be honest, it's just weird to see him here in the green, and see how our chemistry is without even touching the ball, just how we flow."
Expectations are understandably high in Boston after the Celtics made it to the second round of last season's playoffs despite playing without Garnett (and after losing Leon Powe, too).
If there was one sign of just how high those expectations are, it was affixed high on the western wall of the team's practice facility, alongside the Celtics' 17 championship banners (16 of them the originals from the old Boston Garden). That sign was a blank banner, the same size as the others and outlined in green, too, but with nothing but white space in the middle.
"I'm not going to tell you what it means. The players know what it means," said Rivers.
What it means is this: After a 62-win season, and with their core back and their front line bolstered, the Celtics are confident enough in themselves to have their 18th banner ready to go. All it needs are the words "Boston Celtics" and "2010 World Champions" to match the other 17 the franchise has earned, and the pieces are in place (some might quibble about whether the backup point guard piece is in place yet) to erase all that white space.
But the chances of that banner being filled with block letters next summer will remain as strong as they appeared Monday for only as long as Garnett's 33-year-old, surgically repaired knee holds up. And with the wear and tear of training camp and an 82-game season still ahead, the strength and durability of Garnett's knee will be a constant concern.
So far, however, so good. Even if it's been only a week of informal 5-on-5 scrimmaging.
"The first time playing 5-on-5 with the guys, I felt like it was my first time playing basketball. It was fast, [Rajon] Rondo and the rest of them. The game is just really, really fast, and I was trying to slow it down and get my timing and everything, but it was like being a little kid," Garnett said. "The huffing and puffing, it was good. It was good."Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.
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