KG doesn’t have an­swers for Bulls

‘I was never close to sign­ing with the Bulls’

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - NBA ALL-STAR WEEKEND - Teddy Green­stein

Late in his NBA ca­reer, Kevin Gar­nett took a 13-hour flight to Bei­jing for a pre­sea­son game. His agent sug­gested Gar­nett go up­stairs to the first­class cabin to meet the pres­i­dent of Show­time Sports, Stephen Espinoza.

“A dou­ble-decker plane … damm­m­mmn,” Gar­nett, 43, re­called. “Steve looks like he’s about to (sleep). He’s tucked in. And we’re up for the next seven hours. I’m talk­ing his head off. I threw all these ideas at him.”

One was to doc­u­ment Gar­nett go­ing to col­lege, ei­ther Michi­gan or North Carolina.

Wait, didn’t Rod­ney Danger­field al­ready do that?

The idea that stuck is what de­vel­oped into a Show­time doc­u­men­tary that will air in the fall. Why then? Bar­ring some­thing ridicu­lous, Gar­nett will be in­ducted into the Nai­smith Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame in late Au­gust.

Gar­nett, who played for three teams and was a 15-time Al­lS­tar over a 21-sea­son NBA ca­reer, could be frosty with the me­dia as a player. And he said he was tempted to “fade to black” af­ter re­tir­ing in 2016.

But as more en­ter­tain­ment and broad­cast­ing out­lets ap­proached him, here’s the thing Gar­nett re­al­ized about him­self: “If you ask me a ques­tion about some­thing, I feel like I’ve got a story for damn near every­thing.”

OK, I thought Satur­day while sit­ting at the Ace Ho­tel Chicago for a Show­time pro­mo­tional event dur­ing NBA All-Star Week­end.

My ques­tion: Were you ever close to sign­ing with the Bulls?

Gar­nett: “I was never close to sign­ing with the Bulls. Ever.” Si­lence.

Why?

Gar­nett: “I don’t re­ally have a why. There was never an op­por­tu­nity to, and I saw how Jerry (Reins­dorf ), how they did Mike, you know, keep­ing it 100 (% truth­ful). And all play­ers keep that in the back of their minds. If you treat the great­est like this … the great­est didn’t even have a chance to come back and have ownership. What he in­vested to build the Bulls, he didn’t even get a chance to come back and reap the ben­e­fits of that, so … play­ers see that and remember that or put that in the back of their minds. At least I did.

“But I don’t know why in the hell the Bulls can’t sign any free agents. I don’t know.”

But you just said it. “Yeah,” Gar­nett replied, “I just prob­a­bly gave you the an­swer all in there.

“But who knows? Dif­fer­ent times, though. (Shoutout) to Zach LaVine, he’s do­ing his thing. Let’s see if they keep that nu­cleus to­gether.”

Gar­nett has no ties to the Bulls but cred­its Chicago for mak­ing him a beast. He left South Carolina be­fore his se­nior sea­son of high school to suit up with Ron­nie Fields at Far­ragut Ca­reer Academy.

“It helped me with com­pe­ti­tion,” he said. “I was never lack­ing in op­por­tu­nity, never lack­ing a matchup. I was con­fi­dent. Not to say I won ev­ery bat­tle, but I com­peted against … you ask any­one in this city, they know me for hoop­ing. Not just on the West Side but the South Side where West Siders don’t go. … I was play­ing on courts, I’m in peo­ple’s hoods, I’m in projects. I wasn’t even sup­posed to be there.

“West Siders don’t go past 81st and 82nd here in the city. I was at Kennedy-King (Col­lege) ev­ery Satur­day play­ing against the Carver kids, the Simeon kids, the King kids, you know? I’d play against the DePaul guys when they were out of prac­tice. We played ball all the time … kept (me) out of the headaches and the streets.”

Gar­nett re­mem­bers play­ing ball and hav­ing Scot­tie Pip­pen tell him: “You’re too young to be out here.”

But Isiah Thomas told him: “You can play in the league right now.”

“I said: ‘Zeke, what you say?’” “He said: ‘Boy, do you know you can go to the league from high school?’”

Thomas was right: The Tim­ber­wolves took Gar­nett with the fifth pick in the 1995 draft.

Gar­nett was ner­vous be­fore the draft while work­ing out for NBA ex­ec­u­tives, gi­ants such as Pat Ri­ley.

“He said: ‘What the (heck) is this? You’ve got me watch­ing a high school guy?’” Gar­nett said. “And then I dunked it. Hey, (you bleep), what you mean, why you here?”

Gar­nett was ask­ing him­self that dur­ing the shoot­ing of “Un­cut Gems,” the Adam San­dler movie that won sev­eral crit­ics’ awards.

“They tricked me, said I’d have a cool lit­tle get-in, get-out (role),” Gar­nett said. “And then two days turned into two weeks. Next thing you know I’ve got a book in front of me and have to learn this whole ex­change with Adam. Act­ing is not some­thing I’m look­ing to do but if y’all are look­ing for a 7-foot vil­lain …”

Gar­nett was happy to play the role of bad guy while be­ing named nine time All-De­fen­sive First Team.

“I didn’t want to be cool on the court: Hey, what’s up? You cool, dog?” he said. “Nah. I wanted you to feel this smoke. I wanted you to be ner­vous, sweat­ing. When I’m off the court I’m a whole dif­fer­ent per­son.

“Pat Ri­ley stayed in my head, and I played off that. When I watch film of my­self, I was such an an­gry kid. But it was re­ally cof­fee. Cof­fee made me a wild an­i­mal.”

Now you sense Gar­nett needs no java to be in­tense. And thought­ful. And funny.

Show­time ex­ecs hope those qual­i­ties come across in the doc about his life, ca­reer and legacy.

“We’re gonna build some­thing here, put some dope prod­uct out,” he said. “And we’re gonna present it to the world.”

JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY

Re­tired NBA star Kevin Gar­nett talks about be­ing named a fi­nal­ist for the 2020 Nai­smith Me­mo­rial Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame on Fri­day.

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