After the departure of Ray Allen this off-season, signifying the end of the Big Three era, many began to proclaim the torch had been passed to Rajon Rondo as leader of the Boston Celtics. Despite both Doc Rivers’ and teammates’ attempts to push him into a role of leadership, Kevin Garnett remains the unquestioned, on and off court, leader of this team.
If any evidence was needed, just take a look at last night’s game against the Washington Wizards. Rondo was Rondo, putting up 18 points and 14 assists. Garnett was statistically strong as well, with 20 points and 13 rebounds. The numbers are both of All-Star quality, but it was Garnett’s passion and intensity throughout the game that carried the Celtics to a close victory.
Garnett’s leadership came on display last night as the Celtics found themselves down seven with less than a minute left before halftime. The Wizards were on a 10-3 run and Boston looked flat. The team, in desperate need of a boost, turned to Garnett who quickly responded with an emphatic slam off a Rondo bounce pass. He then followed it up by blocking Trevor Booker’s layup attempt on the other end of the floor.
Near the end of regulation, with the Celtics trailing 83-82, Garnett trapped Kevin Seraphin in the corner and stole the ball from him, getting fouled in the process. Garnett would step to the free throw line and hit them both.
Both these sequences would prove critical on route to Boston’s overtime win.
The Big Ticket still remains the catalyst for the Boston defense. He is the Ray Lewis of the NBA. Both continue to defy father time with their play, and their passion and intensity is yet to waiver in the past decade. They define their respective organizations.
As Garnett goes, so will the Celtics’ chances of winning an NBA title this year. Last year, his rejuvenation in the latter part of the season and into the playoffs, completely changed the Celtics. Boston regained their identity as a defensive stalwart, who would grind a game out in the half court.
Rivers hopes to become a quicker paced team with the additions of some younger and athletic bodies, but the commitment to getting stops must remain. Rivers has seen his defense struggle at this early point, as the new faces get acclimated into the defensive scheme.
The stretches when Garnett exited the game last night for a rest, would always result in a defensive breakdown by the Celtics. Without him on the court, Boston appeared lost with their rotations, allowing the Wizards to score at will.
This is where Garnett’s presence becomes even more vital. When he first arrived in Boston, he changed the culture of this organization. He must do the same this year with a team that is entirely revamped.
So while Rondo is the young star with flare, and Paul Pierce is the captain; Kevin Garnett is and will remain the leader until the day he retires and his number five hangs in the rafters.
Fans should appreciate him while he’s still around, because he is a rare breed. Ask Garnett who the leader of this team is and he’d point to Rondo, Pierce, Rivers or anyone else before himself. His innermost desire is to win and few in the game’s history match his competitive drive.
The United States just finished electing their leader for the next four years. Luckily for the Boston Celtics, no election is needed.
Their leader is well known.