Kevin Garnett had 'painful' summer

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett described his summer as "painful" and "dark" on the heels of letting an NBA title slip away, but described his emotions toward the new season as "excited" and "vibrant" while talking to reporters Monday for the first time since Boston's Game 7 loss to the
Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Garnett exhibited a newfound bounce in his step that appears to stem from improved health as he enters the 2010-11 season, combined with an unbridled optimism about the potential for this year's team.

"I'm really excited, really excited," said Garnett. "I don't like us, I love us. I like how we are, I like our depth, and I'm eager to start."

Garnett labored through much of last season while coming off knee surgery that curtailed both his 2008-09 season and Boston's hopes that season of defending its 17th NBA title. He admitted Monday that, at no point last season, did he ever feel 100 percent, something that wore on him mentally, even when his play improved in the postseason.

"More mentally than anything, last year was hard for me, just because I knew I was playing through some difficult times," said Garnett. "I'm not one to make excuses; I'm not one to be out here [expletive] and complaining about things. I'm one to work, to come in here and continue to work, and try to better myself. That's what I did."

Everyone from his teammates to his coaches to the front-office staff suggested Garnett should be improved this season, further removed from surgery. Most also gushed about what they've seen from him since arriving back in Boston.

Suggesting a renewed confidence in his leg, Garnett is eager to showcase it on the floor.

"I feel very strong, very vibrant, if that's the accurate word I want to use there," said Garnett. "I'm excited about the year. I'm eager to have [Shaquille O'Neal] here. I told him it's a shame we had to wait until our last couple years of playing. I wish we could have done this earlier."

After waiting a beat, he added, "Damn it, Danny," as a jab at Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. "But it's good. I'm totally embracing it and having some fun with it."

The summer, however, was not fun for Garnett.

"The summer was painful. Very painful, very dark," he said. "Not enough time [to forget the Game 7 loss], but we're back and it's good to be back. I'm ready to start. It's good to have [coach] Doc [Rivers] back; it's good to have Ray [Allen] back; it's good to see the guys healthy, and the new additions. It's a good time."

Finally, Garnett was asked if he had watched Game 7.

"I don't want to share none of my personal feelings about the game. We've been there, done that one," Garnett said with a smile. "Let's reflect on the new season."

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics and Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.