Anyone Want Al Jefferson Back?


Five players, two draft picks and enough cash to fill an armored car. That is what it cost the Celtics to bring Kevin Garnett to Boston. Yet today, still, you cannot help but wonder if the Celts got him for a song.

Whaddaya think, Boston:

Do you want Al Jefferson back?

So while the Celtics are 27-3, tying the NBA's best record in the last 53 years through 30 games, let there be no doubt about how they got there: Garnett carried them. Last night's 97-93 victory over the Houston Rockets came despite a relatively lackluster effort from a weary club, but it also featured five or six of the most electrifying individual minutes thus far in this incredible Celtics renaissance.

Courtesy: The Big Ticket.

``My gas was high,'' said Garnett, who finished with 26 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals. ``You play the best in the league, you can't in go in with low gas. This building was . . . I fed off this building. It's like this ballclub. I just plugged in and that was it.''

Actually, it was more like they fed off him.

Truth be told, the numbers do not do Garnett justice. They really do not come close. By the time the Celtics got to the middle of the fourth quarter, they had blown a 20-point lead and trailed the Rockets by three, 84-81. The gargantuan Yao Ming had fouled out both Kendrick Perkins and Scot Pollard, and the Celtics looked ready to slip for arguably the first time this season.

And then, keying a stretch during which the Celtics outscored Houston, 16-9, for the balance of the game, Garnett did it all. He scored 11 of those final 16 points. He blocked a shot and stole an entry pass. For a span that covered precisely 6:15, Yao did not merely go scoreless, he went WITHOUT A SHOT.

All of it was because of Garnett.

For the moment, can we make something clear? Garnett is not merely the next great Celtic. He is also positively great theater. While single-handedly blowing the Rockets off the court, Garnett inspired the Garden crowd and nearly ripped off his own jersey, all with an intensity that oozes from his pores.

If you can't enjoy this guy, you don't like competition.

``Energy guys are great for your team,'' coach Doc Rivers said when asked about the relentless nature with which Garnett seems to approach every game. ``It's just rare when your best player is an energy guy. That's a rare combination.''

Of course, the Celtics have not changed solely on the floor this season. They have changed in every other way, too. The new Big Three are the subject of national television ads, and the Celtics are being looked upon as the model of team harmony. The Celtics are unified, on and off the court, and it all stems from the big guy wearing No. 5.

Last night, in addition to his fourth-quarter takeover, Garnett was at the center of virtually all things Celtic. In the first quarter, after Ray Allen tumbled to the floor in the middle of a fast break, Garnett reached down, in stride, to pick up his teammate. Later, Garnett scolded point guard Rajon Rondo for an ill-advised pass - ``No! No!'' he said to his younger teammate - and in doing so delivered a hard lecture for all of the right reasons.

In 30 games Garnett has become the face, heart and soul of the Celtics, with a fire and benevolence unseen here in quite some time.

As for Garnett's performance down the stretch, that may have quelled some concerns. One of the knocks on Garnett prior to his arrival was that he failed to take games over, that he wilted in crunch time. Never mind that he frequently lacked the supporting cast to alleviate some of the demand.

``I've always thought that was unfair to guys who are on single-star teams,'' Rivers said. ``Here, you've got Paul (Pierce). Here, you've got Ray (Allen). Kevin got single-covered shots.''

He made them, of course.

And it certainly looked like he had one heck of a good time doing it.

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