EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Kevin Garnett and Derek Jeter may share the same number -- 2 -- but the Brooklyn Nets power forward says that is where the comparisons between the two future Hall of Famers end.
“He’s been on one team,” Garnett said Monday of the New York Yankees captain, who played the last game of his 19-year career on Sunday in Boston. “He’s done unbelievable things for the Yankees and just sports in general. If you want to say that’s similar or parallel (between us), sure. But with all due respects to what Jeter has done for sports period, I’m just so happy for him and that he went out the way he wanted to, which is not always the way that some athletes get to go. So salute to my man.”
Garnett, 38, is entering his 20th -- and perhaps final -- season in the NBA. He has pondered retirement the last three summers. At this point, it doesn’t appear that Garnett will have a Jeter-like retirement tour since he declined to say whether this season would be his last.
Last summer, Garnett had to be convinced by longtime teammate Paul Pierce and coach Jason Kidd to leave Boston for Brooklyn. This summer, he says, was different.
“I prepared myself this offseason like I have, not last year because I was in decisive in what I wanted to do with the decision-making,” Garnett said. “This year, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I did that throughout the whole summer. So I’m in more better spirits because I know what I’m here to do this year and I’m here to enjoy this. You never know when it’s going to be your last. Watching Jeter and his whole thing has been inspiring and what I took from it is to enjoy this because you never know when it’s going to be your last.”
Asked to expand, Garnett said: “Just because I knew I could do better and just motivated. That’s it. Plus I knew contractually I knew I had to come in here and do that. I’m a person that wants to run through the finish line if you will and I’m happy to be here. So that’s what it is.” He is in the final year of his contract and will earn $12 million in 2014-15.
Garnett, who was his usual vocal self at practice Monday, says he is aware that he will become just the fourth player in league history to play for a 20th season: Kevin Willis, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parrish are the others.
“I told Kevin McHale when I came in here (to Minnesota) after my first practice -- to be not cute or not you know kinda smart -- but he kinda cracked a joke that I had a buncha ice on me. I was just turning 19 and I was hurting and I told him that I wanna be in this league for half my life. And he kinda just giggled,” Garnett said, later acknowledging his appreciation and love for McHale. “But he never knew what was inside so 19 years later here we are. ... I’m motivated and I’ve always been motivated. I’ve never had a problem with that.”
Last season, Garnett had to become acclimated with a new team in a new environment. He says he feels more comfortable with his surroundings now.
“Being honest, I know what to expect this year, living in New York -- let me explain that -- and coming to the Brooklyn Nets. I’m coming from Beantown, didn’t really know what to expect. First year, having Jason (Kidd), didn’t know where I fit in at,” Garnett said. “Obviously, I understood coming in here I knew I wasn’t going to be primary, and what I mean by that is big minutes, play calling. So I wanted to facilitate. Help Brook (Lopez) as much as I could and what I know. Other guys, Mason (Plumlee) and so on and so on. This year, coming in with a little more edge, with a little more assertiveness, kind of deferring back to obviously when I came into this league and hat I created for myself. I’m going to be a lot more aggressive, but then letting the coach know that I’m not 18. If you can, let’s be on the same page as far as minutes and stuff like that, just so I have something to give.”
Garnett was asked what it would mean to him to finish with a strong season.
“To finish the season strong, to be able to look back and say I’ve enjoyed not only the guys, but the opportunity and because it’s so many things play into it with the injuries and so many different things play into just how players are moved or just how players maneuver,” Garnett said. “So I set small goals for myself, but more importantly team goals and team goals are always going to trump my own personals. So I’m just glad I’m able to be out here. Good Lord knows Lionel [Hollins] is totally old-school. He’s kicking our a-- in here, got us running around like a chicken with their head cut off. But it’s all good. It’s all good. He’s working us and we are trying to meet the standard of which he wants and I feel like we are giving it to him. So far so good. Talk to me in five more days and see what the f--- I look like, all right?”
Garnett said he doesn’t want to be a coach when his playing carer is over. “Hell nah,” he said, laughing.
Last season, Garnett openly said he hated playing center. Now, he’s back to his normal power forward spot.
“But now I got used to playing five and now I gotta get used to playing the four. Man it’s terrible right now,” Garnett joked. “But as long as I’m able to be on the floor and contribute, that’s what’s most important.”