BOSTON -- Kevin Garnett's knee is better, and he's waiting with uncharacteristic patience for the rest of his body to catch up.
After missing 25 regular-season games and the playoffs last season because of strained ligaments in his right knee, Garnett was back on the court in Boston for the first time on Friday night in the Celtics' 96-82 exhibition victory over the New York Knicks.
"I'm not back where I want to be, but I don't have any worries when I go out there and play," said Garnett, who had 10 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes -- about the same as the other starters. "I'm putting in time, putting in the work and I'm doing everything they ask me to do and then some, and on top of things I'm just getting stronger. ... I'm not even thinking about (my knee)."
Rasheed Wallace played his first game for the Celtics in Boston and had 13 points and 12 rebounds, avoiding a technical foul from the replacement referees after picking one up in the preseason opener. Substitute officials, who are filling in while the regulars are locked out, called 75 fouls in Boston's 96-90 loss to Houston in Hidalgo, Texas, on Wednesday night.
Al Harrington and David Lee both scored 13 points for the Knicks, who made 3 of 22 shots in the first quarter and went 28 for 76 in the game. They shot 16 percent from 3-point range -- 2 for 20 in the first half.
"We need to come in and get off to a good start and we couldn't do that," Lee said. "We couldn't buy one to start the game and, yes, that makes it hard, confidence-wise, going forward."
Garnett showed no ill-effects from the strained ligaments that sidelined him in March and kept him out of the playoffs last year as the Celtics tried to earn their record 18th NBA title; he also had offseason surgery to remove bone spurs in the same knee. The defending champions lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Orlando Magic in seven games without him.
At one point, Garnett got his legs tangled up with Jared Jeffries but said he was just kicked in the calf.
"It wasn't anything to throw the caution flag up," he said. "It's a contact sport and I just got kicked and I thought I played through it pretty well."
Garnett was his usual fiery self before the game, letting out a yell and banging his head against the padded basket support before the opening tip. He got a standing ovation when he was introduced, and when he left the game in the third quarter he got another big cheer that was rivaled only by the one that greeted the news that the New York Yankees had -- temporarily -- fallen behind the Minnesota Twins 3-1.
After the game, he stared right through a reporter who asked him about getting back into game shape and said after the third or fourth question about his injury, "I see I'm getting a lot of leg questions tonight."
"I'm not worried about my leg. I think everyone in the preseason has a knick-knack, if not two. I'm no different," he said. "I'm listening to guys, they're telling me about taking time and resting. Patience is a hard thing to acquire, but I'm trying to get it the best way that I can.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before the game that Garnett had "zero knee pain, but he does have shin splints and aches and all that."
"What I'm trying to build him back to is playing normal minutes in a game," Rivers said. "He hasn't done that in a long time."