Garnett to LeBron: Loyalty can Hurt

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, right, embraces Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett after Game 6 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, May 13, 2010, in Boston.
AP Photo
At the end of a playoff series he'd been very much a part of winning, Kevin Garnett was asked the obligatory question about what LeBron James' next few weeks will be like.

Garnett did better than answer it. He offered LeBron a piece of advice.

"Loyalty is something that hurts you at times, because you can't get youth back," Garnett said Thursday night after the Celtics eliminated the Cavs 94-85 with the help of his 22-point, 12-rebound performance straight out of 1998. "I can honestly say that if I could go back and do my situation over, knowing what I know now with this organization, I'd have done it a little sooner."

Garnett, one of the original high-school-to-the-NBA stars, will turn 34 the day after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Magic. Fifteen years in, he is chasing his second championship. The only thing loyalty got him was 12 years in Minnesota with one trip past the first round of the playoffs.

"I don't know what's going through his mind," Garnett said of LeBron. "He's a different individual. I haven't spoken to him or anything, but the world is his. Whatever he wants it to be, whatever decisions he makes are probably going to be best for him - not only him, but for him and his family.

"He's the face of basketball," Garnett said. "I think his desire is definitely there. It's going to be the talk of the summer because, you know, everyone's going to be tuned in. It's not just him, but D-Wade and Chris Bosh and all the other solid free agents available this summer. It's going to be an interesting summer."

A summer that started early for LeBron, in large part because Garnett found his health and his youth and some puzzling defensive schemes perpetrated by the Cavs. After Garnett had caused major problems for Antawn Jamison in the first five games of the conference semifinals, Cavs coach Mike Brown's counter move was starting the game with Shaquille O'Neal defending him - a matchup straight out of 1995, and one that should've stayed there. Garnett picked-and-popped Shaq right out of that defensive look, and nobody else had much luck with him, either.

"It's my 15th year, and I have seen almost everything that you can possibly do in a basketball game," Garnett said. "My mentality throughout these whole playoffs has been attack, attack, to be the presence. So when they put Shaq on me, my thought process didn't change. It didn't change at all."

Something clicked for Garnett, and for the Celtics, once the playoffs started. He averaged 18.8 points and 8.0 rebounds in the series, and helped close it out Thursday night with a ferocious dunk that made it 88-74 with 5:53 left and a clutch hook shot off an inbounds play that wound up being the game's last basket.

"He's healthier and happier, which makes all of us happier," coach Doc Rivers said. "With health, I'm assuming that brings confidence."

And results, too.

Ken Berger is the Senior NBA Writer for CBSSports.com

  • Ken Berger

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