“They are old. I know what happens when you play basketball: Old guys foul. Garnett is the dirtiest guy in the league.”
And so began the undoing of the Atlanta Hawks.
The above quote was uttered by Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. on Wednesday, one day before his team’s Game 6 meeting with the Celtics in Boston. Undoubtedly intended as a media mind game, Gearon’s words were received loud and clear by Kevin Garnett who responded first with his play and then again later with his words.
Garnett, traditionally a “pass-first”, defense-minded player, did work on Atlanta’s bigs, scoring 28 points in an 83-80 victory which sent the Hawks back to the ATL for the offseason and Boston ahead to the conference semi-finals.
“First off, I want to say thank you to the (Hawks) owner for giving me some extra gas tonight. My only advice to him is next time he opens his mouth, actually know what he’s talking about — Xs and Os versus checkbooks and bottom lines.”
Boston point guard Rajon Rondo, seated next to Garnett during the post game presser, did his best to keep a straight face as KG went off for several minutes regarding Gearon’s pre-game comments.
“We’re not dirty. You have to understand the word ‘dirty’ in this game is very defined. Going under guys, trying to hurt guys, ill intent — that’s not how we play basketball. We play very, very respectable to the opponent, to the city we’re in. We play with a lot of passion and with force. It’s the playoffs. I haven’t been here trying to hurt anybody and neither have my teammates. I found that comment to be a little rude and out of hand, and I wanted to address it. Just because you got a bunch of money doesn’t mean you can open your mouth.”
The passion he refers to was clearly more than hyperbole as Garnett led his team is scoring, rebounds, assists and steals in the series-clinching win Thursday night. He also led the C’s in verbal swagger as he continued at the microphone:
“I don’t want to come off kind of wrong, but I really go with my craft and I take it very seriously,” he said. “I guess being 35 — soon to be 36, not 37, (19)76 (birth year), look it up — I put a lot of work into my craft. I take it very seriously. I always have, since ’95, since I’ve been able to come into the league and it’s almost like you guys are shocked. Like this ain’t what I do every day, like this ain’t what I was made for. It does come off disrespectful at times. I put a lot of work and time into this, and there are certain levels I expect from myself…I take this very seriously, so you guys calling me old, that number defies. You have no idea what you are doing when you say those ‘old’ comments. I appreciate that. I don’t read your columns, but it gets back to me.”
The Celtics begin their series with the 76ers Saturday night at the TD Garden in Boston.
Brandon Rompa is a writer and musician from Minneapolis, MN. He began writing album reviews and current-event music articles for his college paper at Winona State University in 2007 and has continued to pursue the craft in his leisure time since, hoping to share his love of recorded music, present and past, in a conversational and relatable manner.
Email Brandon at firstname.lastname@example.org