On Wednesday, Hawks owner Michael Gearon Jr. called Celtics  center Kevin Garnett  the “dirtiest guy in the league” during a charity luncheon in Atlanta, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
‘We are playing this old physical team,” said Gearon Jr. “They are old. I know what happens when you play basketball, old guys foul. Garnett is the dirtiest guy in the league.’
How did Garnett respond? Only by producing 28 points (10-of-19 FG, 8-10 FT), 14 rebounds, five blocks and three steals in Game 6, including a turnaround teardrop in the lane that gave the Celtics the lead for good with 30 seconds left and effectively put the first-round series to bed.
“First off, I want to say thank you to the owner for giving me some extra gas tonight,” Garnett said in a postgame press conference for the ages. “My only advice to him is next time he opens his mouth, actually know what he’s talking about — X’s and O’s versus checkbooks and bottom lines.”
Zing. Oh, but Garnett wasn’t done.
“We’re not dirty,” he added. “We’re firm, we play aggressive, but we’re not dirty. You have to understand the word ‘dirty’ in this game is very defined: Trying to hurt guys, ill intent. That’s not how we play basketball. We play very, very respectable to the opponent, to the city. I play with a lot of passion and with force. It’s the playoffs. I haven’t been here trying to hurt anybody, and neither have my teammates. I found that comment to be a little rude and out of hand, and I wanted to address it.”
And the kicker: “Just because you’ve got a bunch of money doesn’t mean you can open your mouth.’
As for his age, Garnett turns 36 on May 19, making him the 21st oldest player in the NBA. But don’t tell him that.
“I guess being 35 — soon to be 36, not 37, ’76, look it up — I put a lot of work into my craft,” he said. “I take it very seriously. I always have, since ’95, since I’ve been able to come into the league and it’s almost like you guys are shocked. Like this ain’t what I do every day, like this ain’t what I was made for. It does come off disrespectful at times. I put a lot of work and time into this, and there are certain levels I expect from myself. …
“I take this very seriously, so you guys calling me old, that number defies. You have no idea what you are doing when you say those ‘old’ comments. I appreciate that. I don’t read your columns, but it gets back to me. …
“Not knowing if this is my last year to play, playing against younger talent, being competitive,” he answered. “I’m a very competitive person. I’ve been playing with great guys, a great coaching staff and organization with good people working in it. I am self-motivated but to come here every day, it’s an easy thing to do. You have some hard days, some rainy days, but for the most part I look forward to waking up and coming in.”
A word of advice for 76ers owner Josh Harris before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals opener in Boston on Saturday: Avoid the words “dirty,” “old” and/or “Garnett” in the same sentence for the next couple of weeks.
For more on Garnett’s signature Celtics moment, check out Paul Flannery‘s column here .