BOSTON – He pounds his chest and screams before every tip-off. He spikes every shot back at his opponent after the whistle. His cursing makes anyone seated courtside with their children cringe. And, yes, he famously wagged his finger in the face of Jose Calderon(notes).
The Celtics beat the Heat 85-76 in the opening game of their Eastern Conference first-round series, but Garnett wasn't around to see the end of it. He was ejected with 40 seconds left after elbowing Heat forward Quentin Richardson(notes) in the jaw, and an NBA source said the league is investigating to determine whether Garnett should be suspended for Game 2.
The incident happened after Paul Pierce(notes) injured his shoulder and fell in front of the Heat bench. Garnett and Richardson exchanged words, and Celtics forward Glen Davis(notes) engaged in some shoving. After Garnett elbowed Richardson, he was hit with his second technical and an automatic ejection – the first technical came earlier for taunting.
''You make your bed, you have to lay in it,'' Garnett said. ''It just is what it is. If I see any of my teammates down, I want to make sure that they are all right. So if I have to deal with it, than that's what it is.''
Richardson thinks Garnett should be suspended. He also has a name for K.G.: ''actress.''
Richardson said he was standing near Pierce to get the ball to inbound. Garnett, however, is aware of Pierce's testy relationship with Richardson and barked at Richardson for being too close to his teammate, which triggered the pushing and shoving. Richardson said Garnett's elbow didn't leave a mark, but he does think the league should suspend KG.
Garnett ''is an actress and so is Paul,'' Richardson said. ''I was going to take the ball out over there. That was what I was trying to do. I told our trainer Jay [Sabol] that [Pierce] is cool and he's doing what he always do, lay down like it's a season-ending injury, then he gets up and he's miraculously fine. He gets a breath, takes his time or whatever and he did the same thing.
''It should be a suspension [for Garnett]. We'll see. That's up to the NBA. But I've seen things like that in the past and people get suspended. I was cool. I was going to try going at him, but with me being restrained, that's what it was.''
The way Garnett saw it, Richardson was the instigator. Richardson, however, sparred only with his mouth.
''I just saw 'Q' standing over him, talking nonsense,'' Garnett said. ''I just asked him to give him some room. Before you knew it, mayhem started. I know these two have competed against each other in the past and they have history of bumping heads a little bit. The only thing I tried to do was tell [Richardson] to give common courtesy for an injured player. That's all.
''I have no beef with 'Q.' I know him personally. I thought what he did was a little disrespectful by standing over a guy that was hurt, just talking nonsense. Before you knew it, it just all broke out. I have to use my head. The only thing I saw was Paul was hurt, and that was the only thing I cared about at the time. I don't remember air-boarding anybody. I just remember people grabbing me.''
Richardson's issues with Pierce are no secret, even if their origins have never been truly explained. The two were ejected for trash-talking in front of a referee two years ago when Richardson was playing for the New York Knicks. Richardson then continued to shout at Pierce while walking down the tunnel to the locker room.
Pierce once hosted Richardson as a recruit at the University of Kansas. Neither player has fully explained what the problem is, but this much is clear: Richardson has always seemed to be more irritated about the situation – and, as a result, has done most of the talking.
''All I will say is people act one way in NBA environments where things can be restrained and you're going to be penalized, fined and da-da-da-da-da-da,'' Richardson said. ''Stuff is going to come to a screeching halt as soon as it happens anyway.
''And you know, you put some people in different environments, they want to do the same thing. And those two pretty much know that. They've been in different environments and didn't act the same way. You know, that's why I call them actresses.''
Garnett was contrite and apologetic after the game. But that might not sway league officials when they decide whether to discipline him.
During the first round of last year's playoffs, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard(notes) was suspended one game for elbowing Philadelphia 76ers center Samuel Dalembert(notes). The Magic won without Howard, but the Celtics can ill afford to lose Garnett for what figures to be a long, tough series with the Heat.
The Celtics went 5-6 without Garnett this season. If Garnett is suspended, Celtics coach Doc Rivers will have to turn to either Davis or Rasheed Wallace(notes) to replace him. Garnett had a solid game with 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists and a block while helping hold Heat forward Michael Beasley(notes) to six points.
''Just not the right time to flex your muscles at that point,'' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Garnett's incident. ''But I haven't seen it yet. … So I don't know [if Garnett will be suspended]. You guys have probably seen it more than I have. I haven't seen it at all. So, the only lesson there for us is we got to get out of there. We got a lead and nothing good can happen for us in that situation.
''And I know they were concerned about Paul, so I do get that. And even if we were right, you're still wrong. Get out of there. So that's a lesson for us.''
Garnett spent the final 40 seconds in the locker room. If he's suspended for Game 2, he won't be allowed in the arena.
''I am just smarter than that,'' Garnett said. ''Composure is everything in these playoffs, that's all.''