WALTHAM — As was evidenced by the NBA taking the center position off the All-Star ballot this week, the idea of traditional positions might be a thing of the past.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers spoke about the evolution of the game in that regard on Wednesday, and on Thursday Kevin Garnett spoke about how the center position has become more of a place for finesse and less of a place for prototypical big and strong 7-footers.
A power forward when he came into the league in 1995 and throughout the vast majority of his career, Garnett made the move to the center position for the C’s midway through last season and saw results that further agreed with the notion that traditional centers as the world once knew it are becoming less and less important.
“I just think it’s a versatility thing,” Garnett said. “Before, you had players like Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, [Robert] Parish. Guys who had to play the 5 — methodical, traditional 5s, power game. I think you see the game going to a finesse game, so to speak. Since I’ve been in the league you’ve seen 3s turn into 4s, 4s turn into 5s, 2s turn into 3s. You have to be able to guard both and be able to do multiple things.
“I think 80s basketball and the early 90s, it was traditional basketball. When I say new basketball, new school, 2000, 2K — whatever you want to call it — is more of being agile, being able to guard multiple positions. I think Scottie Pippen, Robert Horry … those versatile players, I think that’s where the game has been. Not just on one side of the basketball. Now you see 3s and 4s switching, being able to switch, 2s and 3s switching. I just think it’s non-traditional. I think it’s more of an agile and finesse game.”
Garnett’s been in the league for as long as the changes of traditional positions have been going on. Asked if he recognizes himself as a bit of a pioneer among bigger bodies who provide versatility in their skill sets, Garnett agreed but noted he wasn’t the first and won’t be the last.
“I do, but I also like to give credit where credit is due, too. Those guys that played before, that I took examples [from],” he said. “I see me every day, so I’m not a big fan of me. Those are guys that I learned from, took some things from and was able to apply to my own game.”