Friday, November 20, 2009
C's out to show Magic what they missed
By Chris Forsberg ESPNBoston.com
It's human nature to wonder what could have been, but Kevin Garnett isn't one for dwelling on the past.
So for as long as some fans have pondered how far the Celtics might have advanced if they had a healthy Garnett during last year's postseason run, Garnett didn't even give it a moment's consideration.
Kevin Garnett (far right) and the Celtics looked on helplessly as the Magic won Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series last season.
As the Orlando Magic squad that dashed Boston's dreams of a title defense last season returns Friday to Boston -- site of Orlando's lopsided Game 7 triumph on May 17 -- Garnett was asked Thursday if he ever wonders, "What if?"
He offered a dismissive, "No," then didn't elaborate further. That's not to say Garnett particularly liked how the 2008-09 season ended. Asked to sum up his emotions walking out of the Garden after Orlando's 101-82 Game 7 shellacking, Garnett summed it up with one word: "Pissed."
"Like everyone else, I was very pissed," Garnett said, staring toward the ground as he usually does during media interviews. But then he raised his head to the TV cameras and added, "Can you say pissed on TV? [Expletive] it, I just said it. Pissed, very pissed."
Six months later -- fully recovered from offseason knee surgery that he also isn't keen on discussing any further -- Garnett finally has an outlet for that anger.
"I'm not a vengeful person," said Garnett. "I'm just looking forward to playing them. Obviously, they're considered one of the best teams, so we'll rate ourselves and grade ourselves on that, and try to play better. It should be a fun game."
While Garnett wouldn't go down the "What if?" road, his teammates weren't shy about it. Captain Paul Pierce offered the strongest statement when asked if he thought the playoffs might have played out differently with a healthy Garnett.
"I believe it would have; I believe if we had Leon [Powe] we would have [won that series]," said Pierce. "That's just my belief. Everyone can say what they want to say. I thought we were thin, especially at the big bodies, but we definitely pushed them to the limit.
"We all could predict or say what we want to say. It happened the way it was supposed to happen. That's the past. Of course, we could easily say we'd have beaten Orlando, beaten Cleveland, in a perfect world, but that's not the case. I've moved on from last season, now I'm looking forward to the game [Friday]."
Ray Allen admits it's impossible to totally forget what this opponent did to them in the playoffs, but says it's a new season and the Celtics (9-3) are more focused on their own play -- something that's been subpar at best after a red-hot 6-0 start.
"You think about the playoffs and how they affected your summer -- how you had to sit and wait through the disappointment," said Allen.
"But right now, Orlando is a different team, according to what they have [on their roster], and I haven't really thought about the playoffs as much. [Wednesday] we won [against Golden State], but we weren't particularly happy with how we won. Our overall performance, the last three games, we don't like that feeling we had in those games."
It's hard to consider this a true rematch given the roster changes on both sides. The Magic lost Hedo Turkoglu, but reloaded by bringing in Vince Carter and added depth with the likes of Matt Barnes, Brandon Bass and Jason Williams. The Celtics overhauled their own bench with the addition of Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels and Shelden Williams.
Even with Glen Davis sidelined with a fractured right thumb, the Celtics think a healthy Garnett and Wallace will help them match up better with Orlando's frontcourt of Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard.
Celtics center Kendrick Perkins acknowledged Thursday that he's excited for another crack at Howard.
"He's a physical guy who likes to bang," Perkins said. "I like to bang. I have trouble guarding quicker guys on the perimeter, but guys who like to play on the post and make contact, that's what I like to do. With Dwight, you gotta limit his dunks, easy catches. Kind of play him like [Shaquille O'Neal], make him score over the top."
One player the Celtics won't see is Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, who also missed last season's playoff series due to injury. Garnett noted it was unfortunate what happened to Nelson, who, ironically, also had knee surgery and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. But Garnett, better than anyone, should know that the Magic can't use that as a crutch.
"That's the league," said Garnett. "The injuries come with it."
Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.