October 1, 2007
ROME - New Celtics forward Kevin Garnett has a strong reputation for playing as hard in practice as he does in games. And in their first official practice for the upcoming season, the Celtics yesterday were able to witness how intense the 10-time NBA All-Star really is.
After hitting a contested jumper late in a scrimmage, Garnett yelled out: "Let's go, baby. Let's go. Get your gas up. Get your gas up."
Just hours after arriving in Rome after flying from Boston, the Celtics practiced at a small southern Rome arena called Palafonte. The venue is the practice facility for Italian Serie A team Lottomatica Roma and the home arena for the minor league Fonte Meravigliosa. The Celtics, Raptors, Grizzlies, and Timberwolves are taking part in NBA Europe Live, which includes training camp and preseason games in Europe.
Garnett's intensity picked up dramatically after his first team lost to the second team. The 2004 NBA Most Valuable Player said he "doesn't like to get beat" and that he got his competitive fire from his mother.
"I enjoy competing," said Garnett. "I enjoy playing the game. I get to come to practice and release some of my energy. Release some of my stress."
During his 12-year career with Minnesota, Garnett often worried his coaches and the front office by practicing extremely hard. Ex-NBA player Robert Pack played with Clyde Drexler, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Chris Webber, Steve Nash, and Baron Davis, but he couldn't recall anyone who practiced as hard as Garnett did when they were Wolves teammates.
"If it wasn't for the other team having the same name on their jersey, you wouldn't know it was practice [with Garnett]," Pack said. "He goes all-out, which should send a message to the rest of the players."
The Celtics' first team in practice included Garnett and Paul Pierce at the forwards, newcomer Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo at guard, and Kendrick Perkins at center. The second team was Tony Allen and newcomer Eddie House at guard, Brian Scalabrine and Leon Powe at forward, and newcomer Esteban Batista at center.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the two-hour practice went 30 minutes longer than expected because the first team wanted to redeem itself. Garnett's team did win before practice ended.
"I get knocked a little bit to sit my [butt] down," Garnett said. "I figured, while you're out there, get something done."
Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge acknowledged he had some concerns about Garnett practicing extremely hard, but also respected his approach. Ainge said he has had practice intensity concerns with Pierce as well.
"Managing the course of a long season, that's something that Doc will try to do a good job of keeping tabs on how hard he's going and what we need to do for practice," Ainge said.
Rivers, who feared he might not get the best practice out of his team after the flight from Boston, said the Celtics looked sluggish and sloppy. The Celtics are scheduled to practice twice today.
"We have great names," said Rivers, who didn't sleep much on the flight. "But again, we have not won a game. We have not proven ourselves. The East is not that impressed with us right now. And it's our job to do the work and earn it."
Pierce said he is already very comfortable playing with newcomers and fellow stars Garnett and Ray Allen after taking part in voluntary workouts together for three weeks, but it's different in practice.
"Now that we got the coaches out here, it's a different pace and different game," Pierce said. "It's the start of the foundation we're trying to build for the rest of the year."
Center Scot Pollard missed practice with a left ankle sprain suffered several weeks ago. The 11-year veteran is listed as day-to-day and wasn't certain when he'd participate in camp.
"I want to make sure I'm ready when the regular season starts," Pollard said. "I don't want to overdo it and have it drag on."
The Celtics brought 17 players to camp and can keep 15. Ainge expects his roster to be selected from the current one.
"I've looked at everybody's roster," Ainge said. "I've looked at everybody that might have a chance of not being with their team. I don't see anybody out there that I'm trying to covet. But I'm going to keep my eyes open."
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