BEIJING – Kevin Garnett has spoken eloquently about the extra work he put in during the off-season and the sense of serenity and determination he feels entering his 20th NBA season.
But words only get you so far.
Even after playing more than 1,500 NBA games, Garnett still seeks affirmation that his game is at an elite level. He remains passionate about his ability to make an impact. He already has.
In the team’s 97-95 win over the Kings on Sunday in Shanghai, Garnett opened the scoring with an 18-foot wing jumper that hit nothing but net.
In the team’s 111-94 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv on Oct. 7 in Barclays Center, he drained an 11-foot jumper from the elbow.
Don’t think after all these seasons that making those shots has lost its impact on the big man.
“You asked me something, ‘Did it feel like it was my rookie season?’" Garnett said in an exclusive interview with BrooklynNets.com in MasterCard Center. “It’s always the nervousness, the anxiety – that energy’s there.
“That’s what I know – who I am – and I got to always go back to my roots. It don’t matter how long you play, man. When you play in front of a crowd and you energetic and you ready, you got the bop going, it’s always the same thing."
The Brooklyn Nets (2-0) play their third preseason game on Sunday when they face the Sacramento Kings in MasterCard Center.
In the first two preseason games, Garnett played a total of 31 minutes, scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out three assists; all numbers The Big Ticket, 38, thinks he might be able to log this season.
“I’m playing with a better spirit," said Garnett. “I started earlier this year. I got back to my winning ways, knowing to touch the ball early.
“July, I started jogging a little bit; weights the whole time. I got back to my old regimen and even though I didn’t say anything or talk to [GM] Billy [King] or anybody from the Nets, I had started to prepare as if I was going to play this year.
“I don’t want to jump the gun. I’m not going to get into a situation or I’m not going to overstep a boundary. When I’m talking about my old regimen, that’s when you touch the ball 25 times. You’re the priority. They’re coming to you. You got to get a basket here and there.
“My mindset last year was taking a step back. This year is to be more aggressive, to get back to my winning ways because I’m an aggressive person and I’m an aggressive player, to bring that attitude."
Talk about living in the moment. Having seen Derek Jeter go through his 20th and final season, KG has a greater appreciation for the longevity and success of his old career.
This is not to say he puts himself on an equal level with the Yankees’ former captain. Jeter achieved all of his success in New York and won five championships to Garnett’s one.
But the commitment to the game, the desire to inspire others, the willingness to sacrifice for the team, those are traits the great players share. The opponent is Father Time.
“What you all got to understand is 30 minutes, playing at a high level, is a lot on the body,’’ Garnett said. “You play back-to-backs, an 82-game season, plus. I just want to take this one game at a time. I don’t want to get into probabilities and all this.
“I’m going to be productive. I’m going to mess some things up. It’s a new system. I’m going to look great some nights. I’m going to look trash on some nights.
“The fact that giving an effort, 100-percent, like I always have done, and coming out here with a better spirit, I think could carry me over the top. I’m just focused on that right there.
“I don’t want to get into what I’m averaging and I don’t want to get into time. You have no idea what I have to do to come out here and look how I have to look. It’s not easy."
It’s not. But KG is practicing with a renewed zeal and commitment.
He has stopped practice on more than one occasion to make sure everyone understands the new offense and defense Coach Lionel Hollins and his staff are installing.
He is attacking the basket in practice and getting involved in the offense early. Whether or not this is KG’s last season is irrelevant. What’s relevant is that he still has the excitement of a rookie. He feels it every time he hears the sweetest sound in basketball: Swish.