The Boston Celtics lost on Friday night and, even before the final buzzer sounded in Houston, it couldn't have seemed more inconsequential.
While the Rockets dribbled out the clock on a 101-89 triumph at the Toyota Center, snapping Boston's brief two-game winning streak, Kevin Garnett stood up from the Boston bench, put his head down and strode to center court, where he shared a long and emotional embrace with Houston coach Kevin McHale.
McHale rejoined the Rockets just six days ago after his 23-year-old daughter Alexandra “Sasha” McHale died on Nov. 24 of lupus-related complications. Tears welled in the coach's eyes as he wrapped his arms around Garnett, a player he drafted out of high school 17 years ago.
The loss McHale suffered -- and the losses our nation endured Friday in the Connecticut tragedy -- is a reminder that there are things so much bigger than basketball; so much more important than a mid-December defeat.
Garnett's on-court intensity has a way of rubbing opponents and observers the wrong way. But those who know him best off the court swear he's the nicest and most unselfish person you could meet.
We got a small glimpse of that on Friday night in Houston as cameras caught a private moment with a man who was incredibly influential in Garnett's basketball career. Not only did McHale draft Garnett, but he dealt his star player to Boston before the 2007-08 season, affording him the opportunity to seek the title that evaded him in Minnesota.
It doesn't matter much what was said between the two; the raw emotion on McHale's face said it all. There's so much more beyond basketball, and Friday was a reminder of that.
After the game, Garnett struggled to put an emotional day into words.
“I'm all over the place; today has been a crazy day, man," Garnett told reporters in Houston. "I just want to say my condolences go out to the families in Connecticut,” he said, referencing the horrific school shootings. “Anybody that has kids, a niece, any kind of siblings, you know, someone they love -- it’s just been a tough day. I just want to get it off my chest and say my condolences go out to all the parents out there. I saw Kevin and kind of had an emotional moment with him, so it’s been an emotional roller coaster today."
Said McHale: "Oh, you know, KG and I, we go way back. He's a good guy. There will always be a special place in my heart for Kevin."