Let's rewind for a second, go back to last year when you guys lost to the Lakers, six games, the first words out of your mouth were, "Damn, damn, damn (long sigh)." Describe for everybody what that moment was like for you when for a seventh consecutive year you were bounced out of the first round of the playoffs -- what were your thoughts?
Garnett: My thoughts was similar to "The Little House on the Prairie" intro when you see the little girl chasing the butterfly. You have the butterfly right in your hand and just as you lift your pinky or one of your fingers the butterfly slips out. That's how the Lakers series was to me. I felt like we had to capitalize on a lot of opportunities to where the only thing we had to do was close our hands a little more and it was captured and we raised our finger and it slipped out, and there it is.
You're a leader. You're a motivator. You're not a taker. But did you feel that the perception was you weren't those things after you had lost to Los Angeles last year because so many people were pointing to the money and not to your game?
Garnett: Well, a lot of people focused on the money rather than the game, you know ... the things I've been doing, the things I've been doing since I've been in this league is what I've been doing, you know, sharing the ball, scoring, being aggressive, showing emotion, playing with passion. It's what I do, but it's just crazy that um, you know, at the end of the day, people's always looking at what I made and all of that stuff rather than what I was doing on the court, but you've got to have a strong spine in this league man. It can either break you and you'll be out of this league soon, or it can motivate you and make you a real man. So I just got in the weight room, strengthened these shoulders, threw it on my back like whoa and kept on moving man.
Before this season, the No. 1 seed in the West, getting past the first round of the playoffs for the first round, before any of that happened, you signed a five-year extension to stay here. Why?
Garnett: Because I had the solid pieces around me that I felt I could go forward, and that's my loyalty. That's what I do. I'm not a person to jump up and down, I'm not a guy to go market to market, you know, that's not me. Once I saw them step up and obtain Latrell (Sprewell) and Sam (Cassell) and put some really good additions around me, Ervin Johnson and a whole bunch of other pieces, it looked good, and I looked at it and I was like, well, this is it.
Has this season been validation for you?
Garnett: (deep sigh)
That you've finally been validated as one of the great players in this league?
Garnett: I don't need anybody to validate me, though. You know, I'm going to go back to this because it is so real. I cannot control what people say (or) do. I can't control if people like me, I can't control if people like my game.
But we're only talking about wins and losses.
Garnett: I'm talking about facts though. Compare me with anybody in the league. Put them in the same situation I was in two, three years ago and see if they can continue to make the playoffs, see if they can withstand all the drama and the heat. Because a lot of guys when it get hot, guys run -- guys don't want to stay in the kitchen that long.
What will define success for you this year?
Garnett: What defines success would totally, totally be a championship.
If you fall short of winning a championship, can you walk away with this season knowing all that you have accomplished with a smile on your face?
Garnett: We still lost, we still lost. You've still got to burn. You've still got to want something. What have you achieved? This is a team sport. This is not tennis. It's not golf. It's not an individual sport. If you don't win the championship, then what have you accomplished?
Um, I'm very simple. I'm not for the flashes, I'm not for glitz and glamour, you know. I just want to win, I want to be good at what I do, um, and look back upon these days of playing in the NBA. I want people to be able to say, or I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and say I gave everything that I had and I enjoyed it while I was doing it.
Is this the happiest you've been since you arrived in the NBA?
Garnett: No, I've been, '95.
1995, when you first came into the league ...
Garnett: When I first came into the league, I was a kid in a candy store man.
Garnett: Because, you know, I had been so much in '94, '93, that I just needed something else, and I needed something great. I had been going through some difficult things in life in '93 and '94 and I felt like '95, so many people said I couldn't, I couldn't, you can't, you can't, you can't. The only thing is my mom preached to me, and all the things I really didn't want to hear and I covered my ears and went in my room and slammed the door and didn't really want to hear it.