Last week, former Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star, and former teammate of Kevin Garnett, Wally Szczerbiak drew a bit of attention for a series of tweets that ridiculed Garnett's supposed lack of ability towards the end of a close game. In one tweet that Wally obviously felt bad about and soon deleted, Szczerbiak mused that KG lacked a "clutch gene," before going on to point out that he "never takes" the final shots of his team's games, and was "horrible" on both ends in Game 2. Strong words from one side, in an ongoing row that dates all the way back to the summer of 1999.
On Tuesday, following Garnett's brilliant Game 5 performance that helped put the Celtics just one win away from the NBA Finals (no matter what ESPN's Facebook, briefly, would have you think), Wally is backtracking a bit. Or, to be more specific, manning up to the fact that, as he put it, "KG proved me completely wrong." From an interview with Boston's WEEI:
"Like he said in his interview last night, it's incredible what he's doing right now at his age," Szczerbiak said. "It is a credit to his craft, how professional he is. … He's playing the best basketball quite possibly I've ever seen him play, at the biggest moments. It's just incredible.
"Having said that, KG proved me completely wrong last night. [He] made two huge free throws down the stretch and made a big 15-footer. If I'm one of the naysayers that's helping motivate KG play at this level, then maybe the Boston fans owe me a little thank you. Because he's just playing off the charts."
Wally said this with tongue placed firmly in cheek, of course, but Boston doesn't need to thank former-Celtic Wally Szczerbiak for a single thing. Save for acting as the needed expiring contract in the deal that helped bring Ray Allen to Boston, which allowed Garnett to embrace a trade to and contract extension with the Celtics in the summer of 2007.
OK, maybe Boston should thank Szczerbiak.
"The reason why I put the tweet out there about the clutch gene is to be objective," Szczerbiak continued. "In our profession, our job is to be objective. We put LeBron on blast for not having the clutch gene. Watching KG throughout his career, now with Boston, I just threw it out there that, hey, let's keep an eye on KG at crunch time and see what he does at crunch time. Because in years past, when we were with Minnesota, we had guys like Sam Cassell that took the big shot. Now with Boston he has Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. And to KG's credit, why wouldn't you defer to those guys at the end of games? They're big-shot-makers. Paul Pierce showed it again last night."
This is what I have a problem with.
Wally? You deleted the tweet about the "clutch gene" soon after sending it out there and taking in the requisite criticism. If you want to "be objective" and act as analyst, stick with it and leave the words on your Twitter feed. Or, admit that you were off and that it wasn't a proper characterization of how you feel. Don't go back to refer to it later, as you did in the quote above, and have it both ways.
Secondly, as we discussed last week, big men routinely don't take those last-second shots you talked about. Of course Sam Cassell took the last second shots in Minnesota, just as he did in Houston when Hakeem Olajuwon was doing damage (or, in the 1995 Finals, Clyde Drexler and Kenny Smith). Same as Sam did with the Clippers' playoff run in 2006. Certainly doesn't take away from Elton Brand's brilliance.
Same as Avery Johnson did, in a move that few people remember, during the lone close game in the 1999 NBA Finals, in Tim Duncan's first championship year. Big men aren't go-to guys late in contests. Guards and wings are. That's been the case for decades. To call Kevin Garnett out for something that no other big man routinely does? It's ridiculous.
KG's still contributing in a guard's world, though. Boston's go-to play out of timeouts, throughout this postseason run, has been a quick hit for Garnett either in the lane, or with an alley-oop. And while Paul Pierce's 3-pointer may have put Miami on the ropes in Game 5, KG's eight points and four rebounds (including a killer baseline jumper in the final minutes) in the fourth quarter put Miami away. To say nothing of his overall 26 and 11 line in, considering his age and what his team is up against, perhaps the biggest game of his legendary career.
Kudos to Szczerbiak for admitting that things didn't go the way his objective analysis anticipated. Considering his and Garnett's at-times violent history, for Wally to call Garnett a "phenomenal teammate" and partially credit him with Wally's ascension to All-Star status was a classy move. To say the absolute least. And a nice capper on a nagging story.
Next time, though, we'd just like to see it without some of the caveats. And deleted tweets.