- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Kevin Garnett changed the culture in Boston, and the future Hall of Fame forward is already having the same impact in Brooklyn.
“I’m a team player. I’m not a selfish guy. I have no ego,” Garnett said Tuesday. “My stats and my body of work speaks for itself. If someone does something incorrect, I’m quick to correct them, but I care about the next guy.
“I’ve always cared about the guy who’s struggling or the guy who’s going through something, I’ve always tried to be a source of strength for anyone who’s on the team, and always leaned on guys for strength. I don’t know, it’s just who I am. It’s my makeup. If you ask my friends, they’ll tell you the same thing.”
Garnett, 37, has already accomplished everything there is to accomplish as an NBA player. He’s won a championship (2008), an MVP award (2004), a Defensive Player of the Year award (2008) and made 15 All-Star teams (1997-98, 2000-11, 2013).
Nevertheless, entering the 19th season of his career, KG still wants more. Another ring before he retires, mainly.
He remains the same intense, vocal leader he’s always been, never taking a play off -- even in practice.
“My intensity comes from my work ethic. I figured the way you practice is the way you play,” he said. “I’m from South Carolina and in high school you practice hard and I was also taught to have good practice habits and I’ve never forgotten those. I’m a true person to its roots and I will never change that.”
When he was growing up, Garnett looked up to his oldest sister, Sonya, for strength. In high school, he learned from coaches Jim “Duke” Fisher (Mauldin High) and William Nelson (Farragut Academy).
“They taught me all my fundamentals that I use until this day that have been carrying me throughout my 19th season,” KG said. “And I always tell kids get your fundamentals down. It can carry you a long way.”
These days, Garnett is so good that he can call out the opposition’s offensive plays, making life difficult for opposing coaches and players. KG’s task this season will be trying to turn around a team that finished 17th in defense in 2012-13.
“I used to ask him, ‘What is that?’ And he said, ‘Talk is intimidating,’” Garnett said. “And then when I got to Boston Doc [Rivers] was very repetitive about the same thing, so I’ve always tried to be loud. I’ve always tried to be prepared. I feel the better prepared you are on the court the easier or the more simplified things can be. And now I got some of the young guys doing those such things.”
Garnett’s vocal leadership ability has taken a lot of pressure off point guard Deron Williams. D-Will is more of a lead-by-example type guy, but had to take on more of a vocal role on last season’s squad, something he wasn’t very comfortable with.
“I’m not used to being vocal. And so for him, coming in here, he’s the vocal guy. I’m just going to go out there and play. I definitely talk to guys, but he’s a motivator, he’s in your face high intensity every play. Me and Jet [Jason Terry] were talking about it, we don’t know how he does it. Every game he’s just got energy. That’s what makes him special.”
D-Will is glad KG is on his team’s side defensively this season.
“He knows every offense in this league, he’s been around so long,” Williams said. “You can’t slip anything past him. As teams are calling out plays -- example: quick pin-down -- whatever the play is he’s calling it out like that. And that definitely helps. His defensive intensity and awareness is unmatched.”
So is his talking ability.
“He loves to talk. There’s very few that can talk and play. But that’s the makeup of KG and he does it very well,” Williams said.
17dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford