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Seeking Happy Medium In Assessing the Franchise Savior

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Where do we as fans draw the line between realism and pessimism?  Between objective observation, homerism and anti-homerism?  Between realistic believer and hope-abandoning doubter?

These are the questions I've been with which I've been wrestling since the end of Game 5 in Los Angeles on Sunday night -- particularly with regard to the annointed franchise savior himself, Kevin Garnett.

These are questions that have been somewhere in the back of my mind for some time now, but the fourth quarter -- and ensuing response on this board -- brought them to a head.

Within minutes of the conclusion of Sunday's game, a CB member had created a thread titled "KG Choked This Game Away."  Not 45 minutes later, "The official support Kevin Garnett thread" had emerged as well.  I tell you this not because I'm obsessively concerned with every last word written in the forums here but because the thoughts espoused in these two seem to adequately represent the two prominent perspectives on addressing Kevin Garnett.

It was all predictable enough.  In parts of both threads, there was some griping about Garnett's performance in the fourth quarter of Game 5, and there was the expected "How can you talk that way about the guy that got us here?" in response.

This is where it gets dicey for me.

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It seems that at times we have reached a double standard with Garnett that is too unfair because he is the newcomer and anointed savior.  Perhaps I read it wrong, but I've gotten the vibe throughout the season and especially the playoffs that any criticism of Garnett is going to lead to guilt trips of the "This team wouldn't be here without him" variety.

As a fan, I've even felt that guilt on the occasions when I've gotten frustrated with KG's play this postseason.  The fact is that it's hard to be too upset at a guy who messes up from time to time when he happens to be the guy responsible for enabling a complete 180 of the basketball culture in a city, a guy who completely reinvigorated a franchise and a fan base and is in large part responsible for making so many fans deliriously happy this season.

There is no question here about any of that.  It should be a given that we fans know we're watching a future Hall of Fame power forward, one of the best ever to play his position.  A terrific offensive player and possibly an all-time great in his impact on the defensive end of the floor.  A man who has done unbelievable service to the green this season.  One would hope that we're beyond the point of the silly comparisons between the stat lines of Garnett and Al Jefferson, the youngster the team traded away to get him this season.  Watching the two play has made it clear that the latter is a promising and likable young player, but the gap between him and the current power forward in green is enormous.

Kevin Garnett has earned all the support we Celts fans have this season.

But it should be possible for us to support KG without him being -- in the words of my pal Soap -- a sacred cow.

As so many have already pointed out, Kevin Garnett did not play good basketball on Sunday night, particularly down the stretch.  While his stat line looked respectable, he went 4-of-6 in the first quarter and just 2-of-5 the rest of the way.  He looked like he caught a bad case of nerves in two trips to the foul line down the stretch, and his discomfort offensively was evident.  He didn't move his feet well and didn't demonstrate great vision on the offensive end of the floor throughout the evening.  Pau Gasol gave him a rough time on the defensive end. Though Garnett had 14 rebounds (including 7 big ones on the offensive end), there were certainly a couple of occasions on which he didn't box out, choosing instead to simply jump for the ball, often with just one hand, which led to KG getting a piece of the ball at best but not corralling the rebound, which gave the Lakers a few unnecessary extra possessions.  It wasn't his best night.

We're fans.  That means that we watch the game, wish for certain things to happen -- and often believe in them, no matter the odds -- and then we talk about what we saw and what we'll wish for next time around.  That's the cycle.

It would seem then that we should be able to talk about what has already transpired with these players with honesty and objectivity without feeling some sense of guilt for 'abandoning' that player or this team.  As fans, part of our role is to always be believing that the next time out will be the time when everything clicks, and our team takes care of business.  That's a given.

I'm a Celtics fan and a Kevin Garnett fan by extension.  I have the utmost faith in this team and player and believe that both will show up tonight in Boston to win the green its first championship in 22 years. But that shouldn't prevent me from doing my best to truthfully assess what happened last time out.  In my book as a fan, the past is for rationality and the future for imagination.

So why do I still feel like there's something wrong with being frustrated with KG? 

And what about the on-going concerns of ours?  How do we reconcile our unabashed love for KG with the fact that -- like everyone else ever to set foot on a court -- he has his flaws?  You've heard them all before: Too reliant on the mid-range jumper, not as comfortable as he should be going to the low block, possibly unselfish to a fault with the ball in his hands.  How can those sorts of questions become topics of discussion amongst fans without the "How can you say that about our guy?" indignance starting?

Finally, to finish my assortment of questions, why does it feel like there is such a double standard here?  Sure, there are plenty of homers everywhere who can't stand a bad word about anyone on their team, but it seems like KG's 'sacred cow' status is at times different from the rest of the team -- including his co-stars.  Paul Pierce could win an NBA Finals MVP award if all goes well this week, and this team wouldn't be here without him either.  Or Ray Allen, who has been absolutely huge at times during the latter portion of the playoffs.  Yet it seems that we as a group of fans are far more willing to give players like Pierce and Allen grief for their flaws while finding ways to absolve Garnett from significant public complaint.  Is it because he's the bigger deal of the two newcomers?  Because he was the guy during the regular season and this is simply a perk that comes with the territory?  Or am I only mistakenly perceiving that critique directed Garnett's way is met with more sensitivity than most other thoughts on the Celts players?

I'll heed the cycle: watch, wish, talk, hope.  I watched Game 5 wishing for a win.   Thought Kevin Garnett wasn't very good in that game and made that clear in public writing.  But I also know what KG means to this team, and I'll be rooting for and believing in him and the green to the death tonight.

But what works for one dope of a writer doesn't necessarily go for everyone.   So this one's on you, folks, if you don't mind helping sate my curiosity.  Where are the lines of realism and fanhood drawn?  What is your happy medium?

And here's hoping we'll have absolutely nothing of this sort to talk about tomorrow morning. 

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