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Kevin Garnett: The Mentor?

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Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics sprint before a team practice. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics sprint before a team practice. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS)  – When Kevin Garnett re-signed with the Boston Celtics over the summer, it gave them the chance to compete for a championship over the next few years instead of starting a rebuilding process that would likely have them out of title contention for the near future.

But it also gave the team some of the best veteran leadership for their new young bigs. Now Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo can get some on-the-job training from Garnett, who can show his intensity in a mentoring role as the Celtics set out for their quest for Banner 18.

It should come as no surprise that the Celtics went big with their two first round picks in July’s draft, taking a power forward in Sullinger and center in Melo. The Celtics hope those two picks will give their front court some much-needed depth it has lacked in years past.

Garnett noted last week that health amongst their big men has been the biggest issue for Boston since their 2007-08 NBA title.

“Health is always our issue,” he told reporters. “Bigs are very hard to get in this league. Bigs do a lot for our system, especially when it comes to picks and getting guys opened. Doc (Rivers)’ system is predicated on bigs getting smalls open.”

So with Garnett’s tutelage, the Celtics are hoping Sullinger and Melo can get on board during the preseason and regular season, which will pay dividends in the long run – much like Glen Davis did during his rookie campaign when the Celtics won it all.

While Melo is seen as more of a project, Sullinger should slide into a Celtics rotation with ease; possibly even the starting lineup.

Like many following the Celtics throughout the preseason, Garnett wouldn’t be surprised if Sullinger can make some noise in his first season in the NBA.

“Sullly is very attentive, a very hard worker,” Garnett said of the rookie. “I love his IQ. Everything he is gaining as far as respect and anything else within these couple of weeks, he’s earned.”

That is high praise from Garnett, who in Garnett-fashion, went off on the younger generation of NBA talent when asked about former teammate Rasheed Wallace (now with the Knicks) making his return after a brief retirement.

“I’m a big fan of veterans, but more importantly with the league being full of young guys we need it a little more,” he said. “Just to teach these guys on work ethic and being consistent on work ethic; loving this game and giving 100-percent. Not just bull**** and going through half-assed entitlement; really setting yourself for the future, not just riding on potential but becoming something.

Garnett on Rookies/Veterans: 

So to hear Garnett praise Sullinger’s basketball IQ should not be taken lightly.

“Sully” is a nickname Sullinger has gone by for some time, but it’s what Garnett calls him both on and off the floor. The 17-year veteran was sure to make it clear that the nickname means no disrespect, nor do any of the nicknames he bestows onto a young players.

“As any nickname I have given the young boys — because I do know their names — my personal connection is a nickname. So if I give you a nickname, that’s personally from me. Just to clear that (stuff) up,” he said adamantly. “Some people don’t even talk to rookies.”

KG On Nicknames: 

Garnett said he is very connected with this young crop of Celtics bigs, which is good news for anyone that remembers recent picks like JuJaun Johnson, Semih Erden or Bill Walker, who did not enjoy as much success during their time in green.

But as long as the youngsters show they are willing to learn and listen, Garnett will be there to help them find their way.

It sounds like so far, so good with the latest crop.

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