“Kevin had this belief that if you were the leader, you couldn’t miss one snap of practice,” says Doc Rivers, who coached Garnett in Boston from 2007 to 2013. “But I had this belief that you are 30-whatever and I need you for the whole season.” And so in February 2009 the coach sat down his future Hall of Famer. Not to skip a game. Rivers just wanted him to miss a practice. “Coach, you don’t understand,” Garnett seethed. “If I’m sitting, they will see weakness.”
Garnett, forbidden to take the floor by his own coach, had concocted his revenge: He would track the movements of power forward Leon Powe, the player who had replaced him in the lineup. As Powe pivoted, so did Garnett. As Powe leaped to grab a defensive rebound, Garnett launched himself to corral an imaginary ball. As Powe snapped an outlet pass, Garnett mimicked the motion, then sprinted up his slim sliver of sideline real estate as Powe filled the lane on the break. The players were mirror images: one on the court with a full complement of teammates, the other out of bounds, alone. Two men engaged in a bizarre basketball tango. “KG,” Rivers barked, “if you keep doing this, I’m canceling practice for the whole team. That will hurt us.”
It took Brad Stevens far longer than normal to emerge from his coaches’ office and address the media Tuesday night in Atlanta. The reason for his delay was rooted far deeper than only Tuesday’s 121-97 drubbing at the hands of the Hawks. “We had this coming,“ he said, still simmering a good 20 minutes after the conclusion of the game. “We haven’t played well in a few days now, even when we beat Brooklyn at home and we had a good quarter. “We had this coming.”