BOSTON (CBS) — Kevin Garnett has played in the NBA since 1995. He’s averaged 19.3 points and 10.6 rebounds in his 1,255 regular-season games. He’s averaged 19.6 points and 11.1 rebounds in his 120 postseason games. On the night he had a chance to win his first NBA title, he came through with 26 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block against the Lakers. He’s a future Hall of Famer with a resume as impressive as anyone, and he’s universally regarded as a top-10 power forward in NBA history and arguably a top-five.
Yet, former teammate Wally Szczerbiak remains unimpressed.
The former teammate of Garnett for parts of seven seasons tweeted after the Celtics’ Game 2 loss to the heat that Garnett just isn’t fit to perform in crucial moments.
“KG is another one who lacks the #clutchgene. Always has!,” Szczerbiak tweeted (though he later deleted the comment).
Szczerbiak, whose career ended after the 2008-09 season and who currently works as an analyst for CBS Sports, received immediate backlash on Twitter, so he tried to explain himself further (with exclamation points!).
“KG never takes big shot for #Celtics now he’s fourth in line behind Pierce, Allen and Rondo to take clutch shot. Warrior all game though!!” he wrote. “KG was a warrior all game but in OT he was horrible on both ends of the floor tonight!!”
While Garnett may have not been explosive in overtime, it was likely due to the fact that the 36-year-old played 45 minutes of grueling basketball against the best team in the Eastern Conference. A veteran like Garnett shouldn’t really be able to keep pace with an explosive 26-year-old teammate like Rajon Rondo, especially while protecting the rim against the 27-year-old LeBron James or 30-year-old Dwyane Wade, two of the best players in the world.
And all things considered, Garnett’s 18 points and eight rebounds are just a touch better than Szczerbiak’s career playoff averages of 10.2 points and 3.1 rebounds. Garnett’s fountain-of-youth postseason revival (19.4 points, 10.5 rebounds in 37 minutes per night) also makes the timing of Szczerbiak’s commentary rather questionable.
Of course, with Szczerbiak, it’s hard to think his comments on Garnett are anything but personal. Back in the duo’s Minnesota days, Garnett often got so frustrated with Szczerbiak’s lack of defensive effort that Garnett would yell at his teammate on the floor, and it got so bad that Garnett reportedly punched Szczerbiak back in 2000. There were rumors in 2007 when Garnett did not want to be traded to Boston that a potential reunion with Szczerbiak was one of the main reasons. Szczerbiak was traded the night of the draft, the same night the Celtics acquired Ray Allen, thereby opening the door for the Garnett era in Boston. Garnett’s Celtics eliminated Szczerbiak’s (and also LeBron’s) Cavaliers in seven games that postseason.
“I just hope that both parties agree to put this behind them,” Szczerbiak said in 2000 after the training room fight with KG, according to CBC. “I know I’m willing to.”
Perhaps he was willing back then, but perhaps it’s true that old feuds die hard.