Following rumors that Rajon Rondo  could get traded, Garnett was asked his opinion of the young point guard. Garnett said Rondo is the smartest player in the league, as well as “the most stubborn, the most probably hated.”
Said Garnett: “I’ve grown to understand Shorty. His greatest gift is his greatest curse. We as players try to help him to understand that. Me, more or less, I see a lot of myself in him. I’m not as cocky as he is. I like to actually set aside ego when I step on the court and let the play do the talking.
“Shorty’s very smart but he’s also very stubborn. Nonetheless, with all that said and done, talking to him, I see the maturity, I hear the maturity in him wanting to be better. That’s what you want from your young guy. You want your young guy growing. You want your guy to always be in a sense to where he’s understanding that he’s the future. I think him understanding that, him being confident in that. You hear your name in talks, that’s not what you want to be. Things like that come on for a reason. Just understanding growth and understanding being young. But I love Shorty. I wouldn’t want to play with anybody else.”
Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Did you think there was a chance there might not be basketball this year? Did that thought dross your mind? Did it worry you?
To be honest, yeah, I didn’t think that we were going to have basketball, and I thought for the betterment of. I thought players should have stayed solid and together on what we thought was right. I’m a fighter, man. I understood the demographics. Obviously 500-plus players, everybody’s going to have a preference. This was just my own. I understood the negotiating. I understood the whole process of it, going through it in ’99 and ’98. But times are different now. And here we are.
Do wounds need to heal?
I think everybody needs to get past mad and come here and be professional. And I think that’s what you see, guys understanding what this is. But to sit back and complain about the things that [David] Stern is doing, jamming up trades and all this other stuff, I think he’s been playing God for a while. But we need to understand that he’s also grown our league. He’s also done a lot of good things in our league.
At some point if you’re going to go forward, you’ve got to get past mad and come in here and understand that and focus on the positives. So, that’s what I think everybody’s doing. We’ve got a new team here. Basketball is back and alive here. I think all the guys here agree that we’re happy to see each other. Now, it’s just about preparing for this year.
You’re the least political guy I know, at least on this team. So, I’ve got to ask one question about last year. Last year, I defended Danny [Ainge], I thought Danny did what he had to do, made the [Kendrick Perkins ] deal, tried to improve your team, win last year. Shaq comes out and says he warned Danny, he said, “I’m not ready.” Is Shaq telling the truth? Did Shaq say to Danny, “You can’t count on me in the playoffs,” and Danny made the deal anyway? And if that’s true, does that bother you?
[Laughing] This is what happens when things come out. Our situation with Shaq was like this: Perk was our starter, who we understood him coming in wanting to play big minutes. I think Doc [Rivers] was very upfront with Shaq and his role on this team. I don’t think him coming in and playing bulk minutes was ever the idea. I think when he got hurt, everybody [didn’t] understand the fact that how severe he was hurt. None of us knew that until we got in-depth conversations with Doc. And by then, we had already hit the playoffs. I think he was trying to see how well he could get, how quickly he could heal. That process was very, very elongated if not inconsistent. I don’t know he and Danny’s conversations.
We all felt when Perk left, it wasn’t something that we as players, some coaches involved ‘¦ it was out of our hands, to be honest. When you talk about chemistry, when you talk about your brother, when you talk about a personal friend, someone that you’ve grown with. Personally, for me, Perk and I used to always butt heads a little bit when we played. It was always competitive between the two. To win in ’08, to come here in ’08, to grow with a guy — I don’t know about you guys, I don’t know that I have enemies, but I’m pretty sure somewhere, somehow, someone doesn’t like the way I do things; I get it. But to grow with a person you have a difference with was big for us. To show maturity, to show growth, to show that two guys can put aside ego, come together, form a bond to this day, consider like a little brother. Perk’s trade was tough for everybody, if not for this whole franchise, if not for this city.
So, from that perspective, taking Shaq out of it, it was already what it was. It was already detrimental and everything. I think that we were recovering from that. On top of Shaq not being healthy and the other things that we had to put on top of that, it’s just a lot, it’s just a lot.
You’ve been on good teams, a championship teams, and some bad teams. When you look around at the guys here now, does this look like a championship-caliber team? Does it feel like a team that can win it all?
This is a very uncertain year. This is a year you cannot compare to other years. If you want to, compare it to ’98 and ’99. We don’t have three-in-a-rows [in a normal year]. Normal seasons you don’t have 16 games until like March, maybe February. So, the fact that we’re jumping in this thing and just running, it’s almost like a treadmill going like 50 miles per hour. You’re jumping on and you’ve got to keep up. That’s what this is going to be like. So, I’m not going to compare this to other years. This team here, a very solid team, a lot of good-quality guys here. I haven’t seen a lot of good-quality guys since the first couple of years here. We’ve always had good guys, good, hard-working guys, and this group is no different from that.
Doc says he’s looking at this as a one-year window of opportunity and he wants the players to think of it as a one-year window of opportunity. Are you good with that?
I’m good with that. Whatever Doc says, goes.
That’s kind of scary, picturing you with a sense of urgency. Like, you’re going to be more intense than usual? Is that the plan?
We’ll see. I don’t know. The plan is to come in and give your all and then see what happens. We’re looking at this thing now for what it is. It’s 66 games, it’s a tough year, physically this is going to be a grind, mentally this is going to test everybody’s mental standpoint. Mental endurance is going to be very, very, very tested this year. We’re very, very much experienced, and we’ll see what happens.
You talked about chemistry before. Do you have any idea how long it takes to feel comfortable with eight new guys? Because we watched the Heat last year struggle for half the season.
We’re not the Heat, though.
Yeah, I know you’re not the Heat.
We’re not the Heat. Not trying to be like the Heat. Don’t want to look nothing like the Heat.
Yeah, but you’ve got eight new guys coming in with the core four.
We do. But a core four which has been together for a while. I’ve been knowing Paul [Pierce] and Ray [Allen] for a long time. I don’t think people actually know that, that we actually as kids had been knowing each other.
Doc’s system is a very, very easy system. I don’t mean easy as in understanding, more than as in simply to follow. The guys we’ve got are not ego guys. They’re very, very, very hard, great guys. They come in here and understand work, what we are here trying to do. And they’re guys that are, obviously, embracing the new look of our team. I’m excited about this team. I’m excited to see what we look like.
Who’s the smartest player on this team? Because Doc gave us an answer immediately.
That’s what he said. He said he was the smartest player in the league.
Very much so. The most stubborn, the most probably hated.
You might have part of that on him.
No, no. I’ve grown to understand Shorty. His greatest gift is his greatest curse. We as players try to help him to understand that. Me, more or less, I see a lot of myself in him. I’m not as cocky as he is. I like to actually set aside ego when I step on the court and let the play do the talking.
Shorty’s very smart but he’s also very stubborn. Nonetheless, with all that said and done, talking to him, I see the maturity, I hear the maturity in him wanting to be better. That’s what you want from your young guy. You want your young guy growing. You want your guy to always be in a sense to where he’s understanding that he’s the future. I think him understanding that, him being confident in that. You hear your name in talks, that’s not what you want to be. Things like that come on for a reason. Just understanding growth and understanding being young. But I love Shorty. I wouldn’t want to play with anybody else.
He might get traded.
It’s part of the game. It’s part of it. But while he’s here, I love him.
It seems like you understand it’s a business, and Doc was saying it’s a business, and guys understand that. Does Shorty understand that it’s a business and you’ve got to be good to get traded for someone like Chris Paul ?
I think he understands that. Shorty understands what it is. It humbles you. I’ll be honest. You see yourself as an asset. You see yourself as the future. then you hear your name in talks. I don’t know his own thought process, you’d have to ask Rondo those things. But I can just see the maturity in him when I talk to him.
Are you more likely to be here next year in uniform playing for this team, playing for someone else, or not playing at all?
I have no idea what I’ll be doing next year. I don’t even know if if I’ll be living next year.
If you’re living. Just hypothetically, if you’re living.
Hypothetically, if I’m living, I don’t know what I’m going to be doing.
I don’t believe you. I think you have a plan.
You don’t have to believe me.
You don’t have to share it, but ‘¦
Hey, look, this is what I’m telling you.
How many years would you like to play?
How many years would I like to play? I haven’t gotten to that decision yet.
I haven’t gotten to that decision yet.
But you told us last year you have plans for retirement.
That was last year.
Same plans? You were going to run a business. You were not going to do media, not going to coach. You were going to take care of your businesses. Is that still the plan when you’re done here?
I don’t know. I haven’t run across that yet. I’ve been trying to put my arms around coming in here without a deal, players, oh, we’ve got a deal, now we’re in here, eight guys on the floor, hup, new system, new guys, yeah.
Every time we saw players do a press conference, I was looking for you on stage. Did they want you there and you didn’t come, or were they afraid to have you there next to Derek Fisher?
I was there. I’m not a glitz and glamor kind of guy. You won’t see me around a lot of showcases and me being on the front line. But I was at a lot of the meetings, voiced my opinion.
You got in some trouble?
Did I? Did I?
I was expecting you to get in big [trouble], come out, guns blazing, unload.
I’m very smart. I’m not here to embarrass myself nor my family nor this league nor the players. When I say something, I like to at least make sure what I’m saying has substance. Not just running my mouth or just talking. I like to actually be the example for what I’m talking about. When the cameras come on, I wasn’t supposed to be seen. Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher is our president and our union leader. That’s their job, it’s to deliberate to the other players. Players that want to be seen, we saw them. You saw them. I didn’t care for that. That wasn’t my place there. I was there to try to help get a deal done and to support. That was it.
When you weren’t at the meetings, were you spending most of the time in California?
When I wasn’t at the meetings, I was either on the phone with Paul and our reps, or if not on the conference call understanding the meetings.
The only reason I brought up California, you’re Malibu, right?
I live in California and Minnesota in the offseasons, yeah.
Who is your most famous neighbor in Malibu? Any movie stars — Brad Pitt?
I have no idea. No idea.
You aren’t big in Malibu?
No. People don’t know that I live in California. People don’t really see me in California. I don’t know what y’all think I am. I’m very much a simple person. I have a daughter. I do daddy things. I have some family things. I’m no different. I love being around my friends. I love doing fun things. I love being around easygoing people and very simple.
Are you a beach guy?
Sometimes. When it comes to workouts in the morning, absolutely.
Do you go the mall?
No, I don’t do a lot of malls.
I do movies.
In home or in the theater?
A little bit of both. A little bit of both. A little bit of both.
Ocean in view?
Right on the beach?
I can see water.
Life’s good, KG.
Life’s good every day, even when it doesn’t appear to be.