Garnett gives Bucks words of wisdom
There are few people more intense than Kevin Garnett on a basketball court. Actually, there are few people more intense than Kevin Garnett anywhere.
On a basketball court is where you could find Garnett on Tuesday afternoon as he set up shop at the Milwaukee Bucks' downtown Sports Science Center for the first time. Garnett made appearances at Bucks practices last season but hadn't yet stopped by this season.
Clad in a black sweatshirt with the hood pulled up, Garnett put secondyear center Thon Maker through a workout following the team's practice. The intensity was palpable as the 41-yearold, 15-time all-star, 2004 MVP and 2008 NBA champion demanded focus, excellence and hard work from the 20year-old center.
Garnett barked at Maker for watching his shots instead of turning to catch a pass to put up another. He slapped Maker's stomach, testing his focus and strength while he launched jump shots. Garnett reminded Maker to slow himself down and let the game come to him.
By the end, Garnett was annoyingly bouncing a basketball off Maker's back as he shot from the foul line. While doing that, he was reinforcing the positive mentality Maker should maintain at all times.
"What are you talking about, Thon," Garnett asked. "What are you thinking about, Thon? Best in the (expletive) gym . ... That's the dream, Thon."
That's the way the session went, with the two soaked in sweat by the end. Before arriving in Milwaukee, Garnett had watched film of the Bucks and was prepared to tailor his lessons accordingly, and not just to Maker. In the morning before practice, Garnett put Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton through their own workout.
"He mentioned (watching film) when we first got in here this morning with me and Giannis," Maker said. "It's big, it's pretty big. So you've got to concentrate, pay attention and go to work."
Bucks coach Jason Kidd, who was a contemporary of Garnett's in the NBA, has enjoyed the opportunity to bring Garnett into Milwaukee's practices over the past two years.
He knows Garnett truly enjoys sharing his knowledge and success with the next generation of players and is willing to bring every ounce of his passion to the court.
"You just have to listen, and if you're not listening he's just going to turn up the volume a little bit louder, so you will pay attention," Kidd said. "He's the best and his excitement to give back to the game (is great). The game has been great to him, so to be able to work with the younger guys excites him, I think. To give him the idea of what it was like when he had the Kevin McHale's, the veterans teaching him what it meant to be a pro.”
Maker, in just his second year in the NBA, is still learning what it means to be a pro. After a strong push at the end of the last season and a productive, starting role in the playoffs, he entered this season with high expectations.
The early results were not what he was hoping for. Maker struggled to find consistency on defense and struggled to stay out of foul trouble. On offense, he often hovered beyond the three-point arc but wasn't a major factor inside of it.
Since shifting out of the starting lineup at the start of November, Maker has begun to turn things around. During the Bucks' three-game winning streak heading into Wednesday's 7 p.m. game against the Detroit Pistons at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Maker provided productive, high-energy minutes off the bench.
He's more confident and is spotting up for more comfortable midrange shots and getting them to fall. He has worked with assistant coach Sean Sweeney on his footwork and preparation for defending the pick-and-roll and in doing so has limited his fouls.
Working with Garnett built on that progress, with Garnett honing in on the mental aspect of Maker's game.
"I had a slow start, but in terms of myself and having that mindset, I kind of got a chance to look at it again today when we spoke and worked on a few things," Maker said.
With Garnett coming back for the second successive year, Kidd looked at it as an advanced course from last year's offerings.
"There's always AP," Kidd said. "With KG, he's going to push the envelope. He's going to share his knowledge. His IQ is off the charts. The guys have to be ready no matter what, no matter what time of the morning it is, they have to be alert and they've been sponges.”