Saturday, December 14, 2013

Is Garnett Struggling Because He Misses Doc Rivers?

Photo via Getty
Kevin Garnett has been a huge letdown for the Brooklyn Nets this season. The veteran forward was brought in this summer to provide this team with: another weapon on offense, a defensive anchor, and above all, a vocal leader. However, Garnett has been none of those things. He is averaging a career-low 6.3 points per game, struggling to make his usual defensive impact, and hasn't even been able to trash talk opponents, something he’s been known for throughout his 19-year career. Many people have chalked Garnett’s struggles up to age, which is very likely. Gabriel Baumgaertner, however, doesn’t entirely buy into that. The Sports Illustrated columnist believes that Garnett is struggling because he is no longer under the guidance of his longtime head coach, Doc Rivers.

Baumgaertner points to a quote made by Garnett after Brooklyn’s 102-93 victory over Rivers’ Clippers Thursday night:
"I'll always have a special place for Doc," Garnett said. "I thought he helped me grow not only as a player but as a young man. He taught us a lot about not just basketball, but the philosophies of it. About being a young man, a young black man and understanding our responsibilities...I am just grateful that he came into my life and say that I had that experience with him.”
Garnett owes much of his success to Rivers. Before arriving in Boston, Garnett had spent 12 years in Minnesota, with seasons typically ending in early postseason exits. However, after arriving in Boston and teaming up with Rivers (and Paul Pierce and Ray Allen), Garnett, with the help of those men, turned Boston from early postseason exit to an Eastern Conference powerhouse. There is no doubt Rivers greatly helped Garnett and vice versa.

Rivers was asked about Garnett’s struggles this season, to which he replied:
"Kevin's minutes are down. When you play low minutes, your numbers just aren't going to be what they were," Rivers said. "I think Kevin still has a lot of value to this team."
Rivers' statement isn’t entirely true. Garnett is playing less minutes, but that doesn't change the fact that he has career lows in shooting percentage and points per game, while his defense has greatly diminished.

While Baumgaertner makes valid points, he’s not entirely right. Although it’s more than likely Garnett misses his old coach, that’s not why he’s been awful this year. Garnett looks old and slow, and although his heart is still clearly there, he’s not able to physically keep up.

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