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Kevin Garnett’s future determines Celtics’ ability to be competitive next few seasons 05.10.13 at 10:27 am ET
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If next season’s Celtics team does not start Kevin Garnett at power forward, prepare for a long, dark stretch. Without KG patrolling the middle in green and white, feel free to reintroduce yourself to the lottery, long losing streaks and the empty promise of rebuilding.

Doc Rivers bids farewell to Kevin Garnett in Game 6 but will it be the last time they're together? (AP)

If Kevin Garnett walks away from the Celtics following their first-round playoff loss to the Knicks, it’s going to mark the beginning of a long rebuilding era for the team. (AP)

While you miss the scowls, intensity and blocked shots after the whistle, remember that the decline of the Celtics is more complex than the team simply aging. The major problem is the Celtics actually ask Garnett to do more now than they did during the NBA finals run in 2010. Despite his age (37 on May 19) and contract (2 years, $24.3 million), Garnett still is a premier power forward and a critical piece for a team chasing a championship.

“Back in Minnesota, Kevin used to say, ‘I want to live beyond my contract,’ ” new Timberwolves president (and former coach) Flip Saunders told WEEI.com. “That meant whatever he was getting paid, whenever someone would see him in a game or in a practice, he wanted to live up to that contract and then play beyond that.”

Garnett has done exactly that in his six seasons in Boston. His playoff averages (35 minutes, 12.7 points, 13.7 rebounds, his highest playoff average since 2004) against the Knicks also demonstrated that quality basketball remains afloat in his veins. Surrounded by the right players, Garnett still can help Boston contend for a championship. After watching Garnett for 18 seasons, Kevin McHale — who drafted Garnett in Minnesota with the No. 5 pick in 1995 — still is amazed by his former student. Garnett was the first player in 20 years to go directly to the NBA from high school, and McHale recently reminisced about Garnett’s rookie training camp in Minnesota, when the 19-year-old was only a couple of months removed from his senior prom.

“I loved the kid the first day of practice,” McHale said. “He laid on the floor after his first training camp — laying on the ground with nothing left — and I said, ‘We’ve got to go again tonight.’ He went, ‘Huh?’ I said we did two-a-days, and he was like, ‘Oh my.’

“But that night he came and he laid it on the ground, played on the line, laying on the ground, playing on the line. At the end, he was laying on the ground, and I said to him, ‘Now we do two again tomorrow.’ He looked up at me and said, ‘Man, this is going to be a job.’ He hasn’t changed since then, he’s just got better.

“His ability to compete at a high level for such a long time, his love of the game, his competitive nature,” marveled McHale, “it really is fun to watch.”

Competing at a high level for an extended period of time in the National Basketball Association takes a rare talent. It is a skill that is difficult, but far from impossible. The highest standard of excellence has been set by the Spurs, a team with an aging superstar in soon-to-be-Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan. Far from the best of friends, Garnett and the 37-year-old Duncan share very similar basketball philosophies, a fact not lost on Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

“They can look in the mirror and realize they’re both the same in so many respects as far as how they run their lives in the NBA and how they’ve run their careers,” Popovich said during his last trip to Boston. “They’re both competitive as hell, they both understand the game, they both love being on the court, and neither one of them is really that excited about the hoopla that is all around it, but they’ve also endured by taking care of their bodies and what they do in the summertime to take care of their bodies.”

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Doc Rivers on Kevin Garnett and Kevin McHale: ‘They are the exact opposite’ 01.11.13 at 8:49 pm ET
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The last time Kevin McHale and Kevin Garnett saw each other they shared a heartfelt embrace after a Rockets win. Before Friday’s game, they shared a crowded hallway between the Celtics and Rockets locker rooms and talked about their unique relationship that included a controversial trade in the summer of 2007.

“We spent a lot of time in the gym together,” McHale reminisced. “Great kid, great work ethic; turned himself into a fantastic player for years and years and years. His energy level, what he’s been able to accomplish still in the NBA, it’s not so much his age, it’s the minutes he’s played. Look at the amount of minutes he’s played, it’s just phenomenal. And I’m happy for him. But not tonight.

“We worked on stuff. But he had such a unique skill set. We worked on fadeaways, worked on some post stuff. Especially when teams were more physical, he really learned how to post and get his spot. We worked a lot on positioning. With him, he had such a different skill set, that turnaround fadeaway, and that became kinda his go-to move. But he was such a good player from the elbow, such a good player from all over, that just putting him in the low post, that really was a disservice to KG.

“He was a great high-post passer, elbow passer. He passed out of the post. I’ve said this before, he’s one of the most unique players because he’s going to get 25,000 points before it’s over with and he’s a pass-first player. Which is amazing. Most pass-first players score 8,000 points. He’s going to have numbers that shoot-first guys don’t get. That just goes to show how talented — he’s been a first-pass, he’d much rather just make the play whatever it is than shoot the ball. That just goes to show how gifted he is.”

The biggest difference between the two power forwards? McHale was shoot first while KG is one of the all-time best big-man passers in NBA history.

“I told him pass was a bad word. It was a four-letter word.”

Celtics coach Doc Rivers could relate, as he did before Friday’s game.

“They are the exact opposite,” Rivers said. “Other than that, they are both great players. It’s funny, our Kevin kills you with intensity; that Kevin, we laugh about it now, some of the stuff he said on the floor, he joked around half the time and ended up with 30 points and 20 rebounds or whatever.

“We were laughing, he would always ask me on the first free throw: ‘When are you trapping me? Because I know you are.’ And he would say, ‘I just want to know so I can shoot it quicker when I have to shoot. I’m going to shoot it, I just want to know when.’ He was a fun-loving, great player. Still, I think him and [Hakeem Olajuwon], I don’t know a third, as far as footwork, those two guys were as good as we ever see.”

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Larry Bird on Danny Ainge’s willingness to trade Celtics greats, the death of Len Bias and his love for Kobe Bryant 02.07.12 at 1:31 pm ET
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Former Celtics legend Larry Bird said he would have retired in 1988 if Len Bias hadn't died as the result of cocaine use. (AP)

By now, you’ve heard Celtics president Danny Ainge‘s version of the trades Red Auerbach supposedly turned down for Larry Bird and Kevin McHale in the twilight of their careers — and how it relates to the current Big Three’s trade availability.

The story goes that the Pacers offered Chuck Person, Herb Williams and Steve Stipanovich in exchange for Bird while the Mavericks proposed a deal for McHale involving Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins. According to Ainge, Auerbach refused both.

But, in an interview with Grantland’s Bill Simmons on the B.S. Report, Bird remembers it differently.

“I was there with Danny and Red and McHale the day we were talking about that,” Bird told Simmons. “The one thing that Danny threw in there was players’ names. The whole time I was in Boston I never heard Red mention any other players on other teams. I heard him talking about draft picks, but I never heard anything about, ‘Larry, I can trade you for this, this and this.’ He just never did that.”

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Kevin McHale talks to Slam 05.20.11 at 2:39 pm ET
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In an interview with Slam’s Tzvi Twersky, former Celtic great Kevin McHale looked back on his career and how he learned so many ingenious post moves. McHale was an undersized high schooler in Hibbing, Minn., who developed all kinds of up and under moves simply so he could survive against bigger players.

“I grew from 5-11 as a sophomore to 6-7, 6-8, maybe close to 6-9, by the end of my senior year of high school, and I grew to be 6-10 and a quarter,” McHale said. “But I never knew that [was going to happen]. When I first became a basketball junkie, I was just a small, little skinny dude and then I became a real tall, skinny dude.”

There’s great stuff in this interview about playing with Larry Bird, taking on the role of the sixth man and the rivalry with the Lakers. This quote about playing with a broken foot seems especially poignant, considering the way the current Celtics have battled injuries late in their careers.

“I don’t know. I say now in hindsight I wouldn’t do it again, but if I was out there and we had the chance to win a championship, I’d probably do it again. I mean, how often do you get a chance to go down that road? It’s the finals; how often do you get the chance to do that? It’s one of those things where the mature side of me now that I’m older says I wouldn’t do it. But you put me back at 27, 28, and say you have a chance to win another championship? I’d say, Let’s tape it up; let’s go.”

There’s more great stuff in the interview.

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LA Times: McHale in running for Clippers job 06.24.10 at 10:40 am ET
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While Kevin McHale has been mentioned as a possible successor to Doc Rivers should the Celtics coach elect to take some time off, The Los Angeles Times reported that the Hall of Fame big man is one of the names being considered to lead the Clippers.

Here’s what the Times story had to say:

According to league sources who were not authorized to speak publicly, the Clippers are interested in Dallas assistant coach Dwane Casey, former Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro, former Atlanta coach Mike Woodson, former Minnesota executive and Hall of Famer Kevin McHale, and possibly ESPN’s Mark Jackson, who played for the Clippers, and Utah assistant Tyrone Corbin.

McHale, who coached the Timberwolves twice on an interim basis, had informal discussions with the Bulls before they filled their coaching vacancy, and was believed to have interviewed with the Cavaliers.

Del Negro is coming off back-to-back playoff appearances in Chicago, and Woodson the same with the Hawks. Casey was a finalist for the Hawks job recently filled by Larry Drew. More important, he has head-coaching experience in the NBA, having been at Minnesota for a season and a half, and incidentally, followed McHale on one of the interim periods.

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McHale on Big Show: Celts must win ‘old-style’ game 06.11.10 at 8:12 pm ET
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Kevin McHale

Kevin McHale

TNT NBA analyst Kevin McHale appeared on The Big Show Friday afternoon to discuss Celtics-Lakers, the controversial officiating throughout the playoffs, and whether or not he might coach again in the NBA.

Following are some highlights. To hear the interview, click on The Big Show audio on demand page.

Did [Game 4] shock you?

No. I was actually more shocked by Game 3. … Kobe [Bryant] goes 10-for-29, it’s kind of a muddy, muffed-up game, there was not a lot of flow to it. I thought they were going to win that game, I really did. [Derek] Fisher made some big shots and held them off. … I was telling somebody, they were saying, “Well, when the Lakers play free flow and they get their triangle” — they were talking like it was going to be 115, 114 points a night, that doesn’t happen in the playoffs. Everything tightens up, defense gets better, everybody’s after each other. So, no, I was more surprised that the Celtics lost one of those grind-it-out games, and now they’re going  to have to find a way to win two more of those kind of ugly, grind-it-out,  just classic, old-style games.

With Pau Gasol you have to keep him out of his sweet spot.

No question. I think that’s where Rasheed [Wallace] has done a nice job of running him, coming around, tipping some balls away from him, getting him out of the sweet spot. And what Gasol’s tendency is when he feels pressure, he doesn’t push back and get closer, he starts drifting out to the ball. So I think [Kendrick Perkins] and Rasheed have both pushed him off. … When you’re that much bigger and longer than the guy, you can get a one-dribble jump hook left, one-dribble jump hook right, pump fake, you’re just too close, just right under the basket. Read the rest of this entry »

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Simmons on D&C: Officiating is the headline of finals 06.10.10 at 10:39 am ET
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Bill Simmons

Bill Simmons

ESPN columnist Bill Simmons joined the Dennis & Callahan show on Thursday morning and talked about the quick turnaround from Game 2 in Los Angeles to Game 3 in Boston, the inconsistencies of the officials, and the sloppiness of both teams in the series.

Following are some highlights. To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

On Game 3:

I was worried about Game 3 because it was 48 hours after Game 2, cross country trip, and it just seemed like, “Uh oh, this is going to be bad.” If you look at what happened in the game, Kobe [Bryant] had a bad game, [Paul] Pierce and [Ray] Allen both had bad games, the only old guy who had a good game was [Kevin Garnett] and KG didn’t play a lot in Game 2 because he was in foul trouble. My biggest fear about this whole series is that they just wasted an epic KG game and I’m not sure how many he has.

On the inconsistency of the officials:

I think for the most part in the finals, the right team is going to win each game. That’s what bothered me about Game 3 was basically both teams didn’t play well and it came down to officiating. If we’ve learned anything from the Celtics team this year, for whatever reason, the officiating determines how they’re going to do. … It just seems like so many things are predicated on how the officials decide beforehand, “This is what we’re going to do tonight.”

That’s my biggest problem with NBA officiating. Why can’t they just call it the same way every game? … Should we go to a system where there’s just three refs for the entire finals, the same three every game. There just has to be a better solution. Read the rest of this entry »

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