Garnett Begins His 20th NBA Season Full of Sound and Fury

EAST RUTHERFORD - Late in the fifth practice – a monster two and one-half hour session – of the third day of his 20th training camp, Kevin Garnett was carrying on like the best smack talker on your local schoolyard basketball court.

Garnett and the rest of the starting five, clad in black Brooklyn Nets jerseys, had just made a tough defensive stand, forcing the players in white to run an up-and-back.

“We a pack of hyenas!’’ bellowed KG. “We a pack of [expletive] hyenas! We’ll tear you up! Don’t bring that [expletive] in here! We will tear you up! We hyenas!"

Garnett then gave his best hyena impression, sending his teammates into a gleeful frenzy. If this is his final season, KG is not about to go quietly into the night.

“Being honest, I know what to expect this year, living in New York — let me explain that — and coming to the Brooklyn Nets," Garnett said. “Coming from Beantown, didn’t really know what to expect. First year, having Jason [Kidd], didn’t know where I fit in at. Obviously, I understood coming in here I knew I wasn’t going to be primary. And what I mean by that is big minutes, play calling. So I wanted to facilitate, help Brook as much as I could and what I know. Other guys, Mason and so on and so on.

“This year, coming in with a little more edge, with a little more assertiveness, kind of deferring back to obviously when I came into this league and what I created for myself. I’m going to be a lot more aggressive, but then letting the coach know that I’m not 18.

“I prepared myself this off-season like I have, not last year because I was indecisive in what I wanted to do with the decision-making. This year, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I did that throughout the whole summer. So I’m in better spirits because I know what I’m here to do this year, and I’m here to enjoy this. You never know when it’s going to be your last.

“Watching [Derek] Jeter and his whole thing has been inspiring, and what I took from it is to enjoy this because you never know when it’s going to be your last.’’

Garnett, 38, is in the final year of his contract but he has not ruled out playing next season. Regardless of that decision, he will retire as one of just four players in NBA history - Kevin Willis, Robert Parish and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the others – to have played 20 or more seasons.

He is the only NBA player ever to have scored 25,000 points, grabbed 10,000 rebounds, handed out 5,000 assists, made 1,500 steals and blocked 1,500 shots. The next stop is the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

“I’m honored to coach a guy that’s played 20 years in the league,’’ said Nets coach Lionel Hollins. “Because when you think about it, I played 10 years, and it was difficult at the end of 10 for me and I didn’t want to play anymore. I was too banged up.

“But then to see him play 10 more, you know, it’s simply amazing. And not just from the playing, but from the mental aspect of coming in and being professional every year, every summer, because it doesn’t just start in the season, it starts in the summer, putting in all the work that it takes to stay in shape, and to come and be productive, it’s a lot of things. I’m amazed and I marvel at him. And like I said, it’s pure joy to have the opportunity to coach him."

Garnett has lost some stamina and quickness over the years but none of the passion. He has thought of creating a player consulting business when he retires, one in which he works with young players, advising them on money management, media training, practice habits, time management – all the skills necessary for a long and successful career.

KG has a track record of executing his plans. He recalled a time in his first season of 1995-96 when veteran Kevin McHale poked fun at the rookie who was icing his knees after a game.

“I told him that I wanna be in this league for half my life,’’ Garnett said. “And he kinda just giggled. But he never knew what was inside. So 19 years later, here we are.’’

Yes, here we are. With a healthy Brook Lopez, KG moves back to his more natural power forward position.

He said he spoke to his former Nets’ and Boston Celtics’ teammate Paul Pierce, who was at Fenway Park on Sunday to help celebrate Jeter’s final game after 20 seasons.

Watching the greatest Yankees’ captain of all time finish his career with a solid season has made an impact on Garnett. When asked what would make for a good year, Garnett gave a pensive response.

“To finish the season strong, to be able to look back and say I’ve enjoyed not only the guys but the opportunity,’’ he said. “I set small goals for myself, but more importantly, team goals, and team goals are always going to trump my own personals. So I’m just glad I’m able to be out here.

“Good Lord knows Lionel is totally old school. He’s kicking our ass in here, got us running around like a chicken with their head cut off. But it’s all good. It’s all good. He’s working us and we are trying to meet the standard of which he wants and I feel like we are giving it to him. So far, so good. Talk to me in five more days and see what the [expletive] I look like, all right?’’

Deal. But you can take this to the bank: KG might look a little worse for wear in five days, but he’ll still be the loudest voice in the gym.