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Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett fights for the nobodies

10.07.11 at 1:28 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

If you weren’t on the players’ side of the NBA lockout before, it’s getting harder and harder not to be.

Despite the fact that they are inching closer and closer to losing paychecks, and despite the fact that the league’s top players are finding it more and more difficult to seek employment overseas — an issue we’ll get to in a moment — NBA superstars are holding firm against owners.

Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski called Kevin Garnett‘s “apoplectic” plea to his fellow players not to drop lower than a 52-48 split on behalf of the league’s next generation — even in the face of losing his $21 million salary and perhaps his last best chance at a second NBA title to a lost season — “one of the most unselfish acts in these labor talks.” Here’s what one young mid-level salary player told Wojnarowski:

“What he’s doing now, to me, it says a lot about K.G. He’s willing to sit out the year, and give up [$21 million] at the end of his last big contract, and probably his last really good chance to win another ring. For him, this is about the principle.

“I don’t want to hear this stuff from our guys saying, ‘Oh, he can afford to sit out. He’s made a lot of money.’ I respect the [expletive] out of those guys standing up for us right now, him, Kobe, all of them.”

If owners and players don’t reach an agreement by Monday, the NBA will cancel the first two weeks of the regular season. If the lockout lingers any further, the players will indeed lose paychecks beginning on Nov. 15.

The four most prominent players at the most recent collective bargaining session in New York City — Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Amare Stoudemire — stand to lose a combined $219,000 per day if the NBA does not return by mid-November. I’m not sure, but I think that’s a lot of money.

“It’s very, very easy to jump ship when things get hard,” Garnett told Yahoo! Sports. “It’s very, very easy to start thinking differently. I’m not that type of person.”

NBA owners are in this for the long haul, as those who own profitable franchises will be able to make up for lost revenue fairly quickly over the course of the collective bargaining agreement and those who (claim they) don’t profit will actually save money each day the lockout continues.

That’s not the case for aging superstars like Bryant and Garnett, who have 1,401 combined hours of NBA basketball on their aching knees. And it’s not as easy as they might have once thought to make that money back overseas, as Bucks center Andrew Bogut‘s agent David Bauman noted to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

High-paid players — especially injury risks like Bogut, Bryant and Garnett — can’t find affordable insurance deals to cover the wages they would lose if they suffered serious injury abroad and their team terminated their contract under a new deal. Bogut’s insurance coverage for the three years and $39.5 million remaining on his contract would have cost him $1 million. Imagine what it would cost for the three years and $83.6 million left on Bryant’s deal. Too much to make signing in Italy for a couple million worth the hassle.

“It’s just too big of a nut,” Bauman told the Journal Sentinel. “That’s why you won’t see Kobe [Bryant] or LeBron [James] or K.G. playing overseas. This is the undercurrent of the business we do.”

So, the fact that these players — the ones who stand to lose the most and gain the least in a lost season — is something the owners simply can’t help but acknowledge. And their fellow players can’t help but respect. It’s ironic that Garnett is lobbying so ardently on behalf of the same nobodies he dismisses regularly in season.

I think we can all agree on this much: Garnett doesn’t like to lose. In a recent interview with Complex magazine, he said he once threw a video game controller through a TV when someone threw a Hail Mary on the final play to beat him in game of Madden ’97.

“It fuels the fire, but you know, at the same time when you’re winning it’s great; when you’re losing it’s encouraging,” Garnett told Complex. “When you’re winning you’re also encouraged to continue to win and to stay on top, but when you lose it is unlike anything else. It is truly fuel for the warrior’s spirit.”

Whenever someone takes a jab at Garnett, Celtics coach Doc Rivers responds the same way: Say all you want about him, but you’d take Garnett on your team in a second. The rest of the NBA is just starting to figure that out.

RAJON RONDO: CHICAGO FANS ARE THE WORST

As you know, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo recently hosted the Red Bull King of the Rock 1-on-1 tournament on Alcatraz. During the event, Red Bull conducted an interview with Rondo for its website. The highlights:

  • On his elbow injury: “Pop! It was loud. I was in shock, more than anything. It wasn’t a lot of pain, it was shock.”
  • On his youth football career: “People said they thought I was better in football than in basketball, but who knows? I’€™ll never know.”
  • On the Knicks sweep: “There were some intense games, and it could have gone a different way if our guys didn’€™t make shots for us. It was a fun series, though, being that the Knicks hadn’t made the playoffs in so long — and the Celtics going against the Knicks is a good rivalry.”
  • On the most obnoxious crowd: “I’d say Chicago. Ever since a couple years back in the playoffs, me and Kirk [Hinrich] got into it and they’ve been booing me and heckling me ever since.”
  • On the Boston Garden crowd: “It’s very intense, even on Sunday games. Sunday afternoon, it’s still alive in the Garden.”

Meanwhile, Rondo is confirmed for Saturday’s Dwyane Wade vs. LeBron James charity basketball game at Florida International University. It tips at 7:30 p.m. and airs on CBSMiami.com. Here are the rosters:

Who gets the start for Team LeBron: Rondo or Westbrook? I know who Kendrick Perkins would take.

Rondo still isn’t confirmed but is expected to participate in a charity game at the University of Kentucky between the Big Blue All-Stars and “The Villains,” coached of course by Christian Laettner. Here are those likely rosters:

JERMAINE O’NEAL, BLACKJACK ACE

When I heard C’s center Jermaine O’Neal was participating in a charity event for the INDYCAR Series, I thought: Please tell me he’s not racing cars, please tell me he’s not racing cars, please tell me he’s not racing cars.

He’s not racing cars, thankfully. He’s playing blackjack alongside current and former NBA and NFL stars, including former Celtics point guard Marcus Banks, who I’m not sure you can call a current or former NBA star.

So, by my count Paul Pierce participated in the World Series of Poker, Garnett admitted to playing online poker in his Complex magazine interview and O’Neal is playing blackjack for charity. I’m not going to tell Comcast Sports Net New England how to run their business, but can we get all the Celtics at a poker table every week and film it?

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce
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