After months of suspect defensive play fueled in part by a lack of rim protection, the Cleveland Cavaliers thought they’d addressed their need for interior deterrence when they signed veteran big man (and former Golden State Warriors foil) Andrew Bogut off the waiver wire in late February. The Cavs never actually got to see whether the Aussie could make a difference in their defensive composure, though, as Bogut suffered a broken leg less than one minute into his first game in Cleveland.
Bogut’s season-ending injury led the Cavaliers to waive him and pick up another former Milwaukee Bucks center, shot-blocker Larry Sanders, who was making his comeback after spending two years away from the game to pursue treatment for anxiety and depression. After a brief cameo appearance in wine and gold — five games, 13 total minutes, four points, four rebounds, five fouls — Sanders, too, was shown the door, as the Cavs signed former Atlanta Hawks center Edy Tavares off the Toronto Raptors’ D-League team to round out their roster heading into the postseason.
Before the Cavs inked the 7-foot-3 Tavares, though, head coach Tyronn Lue says he took a quick “what the hell, why not?” shot at adding a big man with a slightly more impressive NBA résumé: Kevin Garnett.
Lue told the story of his attempt to woo the future Hall of Famer, consultant for the Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks, and TNT commentator during a chat with Dave McMenamin for ESPN’s “NBA Lockdown” podcast:
McMenamin: After Bogut left the franchise, I heard that there was a certain former MVP that was discussed as a potential replacement for him.
Lue: I don’t know who that is. (laughs)
McMenamin: Is that right? No?
Lue: Who was it? Who was it? (laughs)
McMenamin: Not a guy you used to coach in Boston?
Lue: It was crazy. I talked to him right before we signed Edy, and I was like, “Man, you should come back and play for me.” […] And he’s like, “Man, y’all got a lot going on over there.” That was before we hit our stride the way we’re playing well now. But he was like, “If you and [former Boston Celtics teammate and current Cavs assistant coach James] Posey were still playing, I would come.” He said, “But you’re coaching, and y’all going through what you’re going through.” He said, “Ahh, I’m going to sit this one out.” I said, “OK, we’ll call you next year.” He started laughing and whatever. And then his wife Brandi said, “I heard you’re trying to get Kevin to come back and play.” I said, “I think next year, we might be able to talk him into coming and playing about eight minutes a game.”
Garnett retired last September after a remarkable 21-year career that saw him grow from the first high-school player to enter the NBA in two decades into one of the defining players of his generation. He led the Minnesota Timberwolves to relevance, the Celtics to their 17th NBA championship, and a new era of big men into a future in which 7-footers (or, if they had their preferred billing in the program, 6-foot-11ers) not only could have a point guard’s vision and a swingman’s touch — they had to.
Age, injuries and the accumulated wear of nearly two decades of carrying franchises caused Garnett to miss 107 games over his final three seasons, though. By the end of the line, KG could scarcely get or stay on the floor, even for eight minutes at a clip. Still, all that experience, savvy and intensity made Lue figure it was worth a shot as Cleveland sought another big man behind Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye.
“He’s great for your culture,” Lue told McMenamin. “He does everything the right way. It’s all about winning. It’s not about him. And to have a Hall of Famer like that, and such a great player to make it all about team, you know, I mean, it’s unbelievable.”
Maybe not quite as unbelievable as KG’s reaction to “Making the Band” …
KG headbutted his wall and put a hole in it because the Making the Band guys didn’t want it enough. pic.twitter.com/kCgPuhh2lr
— devin kharpertian (@uuords) September 23, 2016
… but still: pretty good.
Alas, the Cavs moved on — and seem to be doing quite fine at the moment, thank you very much — and KG kept on hosting “Area 21,” which has brought us such delicacies as 2 Chainz hooping with a bopping-with-ecstatic-bliss Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace. So, while it would’ve been wonderful to see the Ticket get one more crack at postseason play, I think it’s safe to say we’ve all come out ahead in this deal.
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