WALTHAM — If Kevin Garnett  is indeed cleared to play Friday against Portland by the Celtics ‘ medical staff and head coach Doc Rivers , the team might be getting the kick in the pants a lot of observers – including their head coach feel they need.
There’s no reading between the lines necessary when interpreting Garnett’s comments about what’s been missing, especially in a team that has blown double-digit first-half leads on their way to losses to Dallas and Detroit this week.
‘Slippage man, some of the hardest games are between 30 and 55 of the season and those are the grind games and at this stage, we have to grind all these out,” Garnett said. “It’s a good time for everybody to be coming back and coming back strong.
‘It’s accountability, man. I’m telling you, our defense is built off grit and effort. You either you can do it or you don’t want to do it. The man behind you having your back, that’s what it is, nothing more, nothing less than that.’
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While not playing, Garnett sees the second-half defensive breakdowns everyone else watching the Celtics has witnessed during their 4-5 month of January so far.
‘Our defense is built off of trust,” he said. “It isn’t necessarily an assignment but it is a type of defense in which we hold each other accountable. Whatever the defense the calls for, for one person to do his job, the natural reaction is for his teammate to be there to help him and then so on and so on.”
Garnett, who was named the Eastern Conference starting center on Thursday , believes that when he comes back and is joined by Marquis Daniels  after the All-Star break, the Celtics will be a different team defensively and all-around.
“I think a little bit of that has been beat up a little bit,” he said. “I think as we get more practice time, and obviously, as guys come back like myself, Rasheed [Wallace ] and Marquis, certain things will start to get back into a proper manner.”
So, with his team 4-6 in the 10 games he’s missed due to a hyperextended right knee, is he going to beg to get back in?
‘It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t,” he quipped this week.
But giving it further thought, the 33-year-old Garnett sounds more serious and calculating.
‘But I try to listen,” Garnett explained. “At this stage, where I’m at in life, just trying to preserve as much as I can and be smart about injuries so they don’t get worse. I learned that last year the hard way. So, I’m just trying to be patient and listen.”
Garnett, born on May 19, 1976, looked to the stars for further insight to his stubborn want to play, when when it’s not in his best interest.
‘It’s a Taurus quality, and all you Tauruses know what I’m talking about,” he said. “For the most part, I feel really good and I’m just going to listen and when he said I’m able and they give me the green light, then that’s when it is.
‘As you all know, none of you look young, but when you’re younger, you think you can go all day and you run through a wall. And as I’m sure all of us can say, we learn the hard way and I’m no different from that. These days I’m just trying to be a lot smarter and not be injured.’
Garnett feels a bit snakebit in Boston. Yes, he fulfilled his dream of winning an NBA title in 2008 with the Celtics but he is also experiencing the aches, pains and bad breaks that sometimes hit athletes in their later years.
Like when he went up for a dunk in Utah last season and landed awkwardly, agitating bone spurs behind an already achy right knee. Those were taken out last spring. Then this season, he felt he was running on all cylinders before hyperextending the same knee in late December.
‘I’m having these freak accidents,” he said. “It’s funny. I was in Minnesota for a while and missed probably about six games and I’m come here and the championship air here, you just get weird injuries.
‘You continue to breathe this championship air and get these weird injuries and just fight through them and hopefully I can be back at full strength. That’s all this is, just trying to listen and be smart at this stage.”
To Garnett’s point, he played in every game for Minnesota between the 2002-03 and 04-05 seasons. Then last year he missed the last 25 games of the regular season and the playoffs with bone spurs.
One thing Garnett doesn’t have to worry about is bringing the intensity – at practice and in games – when he returns.
‘When it comes to intensity, it’s just something that’s been instilled in me and I do naturally,’ he said.
And that intensity is something the Celtics could use right about now.
‘I hear it from Doc every day so yeah,” Garnett said. “At this stage, I’m trying to be smart about what I’m doing and come back better than I was when I left.’