A Denver Post Writer Discusses KG

The Denver Post
Benjamin Hochman

Hedo Turkoglu averages more points per game than the MVP front-runner. So does Andre Iguodala. In fact, if voting went strictly by statistics, Boston forward Kevin Garnett might not get that many more votes than Von Wafer.

But ask Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Or ask Nuggets coach George Karl , who has talked repeatedly about it all season. Same for numerous members of the award-voting media. Garnett is the most valuable player to his team, a team that happens to have the best record in the NBA.

"There are a lot of guys with better numbers, but if you go by importance, he's been extremely important to us, on the floor and off the floor," Rivers said. "He's our defensive voice. He gets the most out of everyone. And it's meant the world to our team."

Yes, the Celtics also acquired Ray Allen, a perennial all-star and one of the best shooters in the game. But Garnett is the general.

"His presence alone, his personality and work ethic, is very demanding," said Boston all-star Paul Pierce, who suffered for many years in Boston, similar to what Garnett went through in Minnesota without a supporting cast. "I think it flows through the rest of the guys. You feel it. And you see it in practice and on the court with his passion and energy."

"There's only (a few guys) that could have done orchestrated the turnaround," Pierce said, "and Kevin was one of them. You've got Kevin, Tim Duncan, Shaq. Those are the three premier guys in the last decade that you could say could change the culture of any team."

Garnett, 6-feet-11, is a dynamic scorer who swallows rebounds (9.9). But his value goes far beyond stats.

At practice, Garnett is as vocal as Rivers. And Garnett has no time to sugarcoat his message. Early in the season, Rivers said, Garnett's in-your-face motivation spooked some guys, but it has become an important part of the Celtics' growth.

Karl recently reiterated his view of Garnett's importance in Boston. "The biggest thing he has brought is passion, which they didn't have last year," he said.

If Garnett wins MVP honors and averages less than 20 points per game, he will be just the fifth player to do so. Steve Nash won the award because of his assists. Bill Walton and Wes Unseld were fierce rebounders and leaders. And Bill Russell was Bill Russell.

"Bringing him in," Denver all-star Carmelo Anthony said, "I think that was the best move in sports in a long time."

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