1.08.2015

Celtics talk turkey to Garnett

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Celtics talk turkey to Garnett

February 4, 1999

 WALTHAM - Last February, Marlon Garnett was playing professional basketball in Turkey, enduring less than adequate sanitary facilities in some locker rooms, communicating with the coaching staff through an interpreter, playing on courts that were also used for soccer, and, he smiled, "eating lots of shish kebob, rice, and beef." Now he's a backup point guard with the Celtics, thanks to being in the right place at the right time after returning from overseas - specifically, playing on the same court with Boston's No. 1 draft pick, Paul Pierce, in Los Angeles when Celtics coach Rick Pitino dropped by to take a peek at Pierce.



 "He is this year's Bruce Bowen," said Pitino yesterday in reference to the player who was also signed as a free agent and went on to become a defensive force last season. "We went out to look at Pierce in the summertime, and I asked someone who that point guard was. I watched him play, loved what I saw, and brought him in. "Marlon's a great find for us because he shoots it so well," added Pitino, who signed Garnett to a free agent contract two weeks ago, "and he's a tough, hard-nosed ballplayer like Bruce." Garnett, who can play both point and shooting guard, was the West Coast Conference Player of the Year at Santa Clara in 1997.

He led the league with 17.7 points per game and established a school record for career 3-point field goal percentage. His credentials were solid, but when he wasn't taken in the '97 NBA draft or invited to anyone's camp for an extended tryout, Garnett, an honorable-mention McDonald's All-American at Hamilton High in Los Angeles, went through a brief, informal workout with the Lakers. He played for a couple of weeks with a touring team, didn't hook on in the CBA, then decided that playing in Turkey was better than not playing at all with winter half gone. "I don't know of a kid I've ever had in our program who's worked harder to develop his talents," Santa Clara coach Dick Davey said. "Maybe the pros thought he was a half-step too slow, but he's improved his speed and he's got a gift most guys don't have - he can shoot the hell out of the ball."

 Davey, who had coached at clinics in Turkey and had befriended a local coach, used that contact to help Garnett get a job in that country. "It was a very tough adjustment, but having Turkey on my resume was better than not having anything at all," said Garnett after yesterday's practice at Brandeis University. "Unlike other European countries, the percentage of English-speaking people wasn't very high there. If I needed something at night, I couldn't call my coach. I had to wait for the next day when the interpreter was around. I was the only American on my team [ Adalya Vakif] until the playoffs." He came back to California, played in the LA summer league, worked out at UCLA, and was ready to cast his fate with Grand Rapids, Mich., in the CBA. But, he said, "something inside told me this was my year, and my agent also thought it wouldn't hurt to hold off while the lockout wound down."

The wait was worth it: Pierce, a former opponent when Kansas took on Santa Clara, is now a teammate, and their friendship has helped ease the transition to a new city. "I love Boston and the people here, but I'm still getting used to the weather," said Garnett. "I know I'll be backing up two veteran point guards [ Kenny Anderson and Dana Barros] , and I feel I can come in and develop as a player. I'm more a natural 2-guard, but because of my size [ 6 feet 2 inches] , I've kind of molded myself into a point guard. I've gotten a lot better at the 1-spot since college."

1 comment:

Lex said...

How confusing is that?

A celtic named garnett wearing the number 20.

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