Kevin Garnett's last three games have been undeniably encouraging. His health is always a tricky subject because this season, like the New England weather, it's basically been unpredictable. One game he looks like the KG of old, and the next he's visibly laboring to get up and down the court. It's certainly no fault of Garnett's, for he can't fight getting older (and if someone like him can't fight it, what hope do we all have?). But amidst the ups and the downs, innumerable questions have repeatedly been raised: Is he hiding some other injury? How does he actually feel? Will he start to feel better as the season goes on? Will he be ready for the playoffs? Etc.
What has stuck out most in his past three games against the Lakers, the Trailblazers, and the Nuggets, has simply been the way he looks on the court. A slew of words come to mind: Spry, athletic, fluid, and strong, to name a few. It'd be a stretch to say he looked like Kevin Garnett circa 2004, for he'll never be that player again, but at the very least, he looks better than he's looked in quite some time. I can't even go so far as to say he's healthy, because I don't actually know. I can't tell you how KG physically feels. I can only relate to you what I've seen while watching him these past three games, and he's looked like a more comfortable, and more confident Kevin Garnett. He's been moving well. He's been leaping better. His jump shot has been falling. He's been getting out ahead of the defense in the open court for easy baskets. He's converted a few alley-oops from Rajon Rondo.
But is three games enough to instill a sincere sense of confidence in us? This is the part where we can't get ahead of ourselves. While the Celtics are still struggling for consistency, these last three games Garnett as an individual player has found it, in terms of his demeanor on the court. But when can we say, 'Kevin Garnett is back'? Or better yet, will we ever be able to say that? Will there ever come a time, for the remainder of Garnett's stint with the Celtics, where we completely dismiss his right knee from our minds? Probably not. He means too much to this team's chances for another title, which is why, ironically, we want to believe in his health so bad.
It's no secret: If Kevin Garnett isn't healthy, the Celtics aren't winning a championship. It's depressing to say, to think that the chances of another title rest on one man's knee, but we can't fight reality, much like KG can't fight getting older. It just happens. It's obviously important to have guys like Marquis Daniels and Glen Davis healthy, but if Garnett isn't good to go, then forget about it.
It seems as though, no matter what we tell ourselves, Garnett's knee and health in general will always remain a concern. Think about it. He could post 20 points and 11 rebounds in 12 straight games, but the second he looks weak in the 13th game, our trepidation reignites and we're back to square one.
Take a trip back with me to late November. The Celtics embark on an 11-game winning streak after downing the New York Knicks in overtime on November 22 (Kevin Garnett hit the jump shot at the buzzer to seal the deal). Over the final 10 games of that winning streak, Garnett averaged 18.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He shot over 50 percent from the field in all 10 games. He's back, right? Not so fast. Less than three games later, he suffers a "right thigh bruise" and sits out against the Indiana Pacers on December 22. Back to square one. The critics came out of their caves and swarmed, like vultures swooping in on their prey in the heart of the Serengeti. The confidence he had instilled in everyone over those 10 games was instantly shattered, and (partly due to how Celtics management handled the knee injury last season) people immediately began to speculate that "thigh bruise" was really secret code for "knee injury".
Then of course, Garnett's right knee (the knee) gets kicked late in the fourth quarter while the Celtics are in the midst of losing to the Golden State Warriors on December 28. This came a day after Garnett hyperextended the same knee against the Los Angeles Clippers. The sky might as well have fallen. We weren't back to square one. We were back to square -62. He goes on to miss 10 straight games, before returning against Portland on January 22.
Since then, it's been a fight for Garnett to get his rhythm back. He stumbled against the Magic on January 28, shooting just 2-8 and finishing with six points. But then on February 1 he shoots 8-9 against the Wizards en route to 19 points. But then he relapses against the Hornets a day before the All-Star break, with just seven points on 2-9 shooting in a very winnable game. I'd be lying if I said I remember how Garnett looked in each of those games, but I explicitly remember not having the same sense of hope that I have now after seeing him play in the Celtics' most recent three games.
Now we come back to the present. We've been down this road before. Is three games enough to give us hope that Garnett is truly on the path to being, not the KG of old, but KG-enough for the Celtics to win a title this season? I really want to believe three games is enough, and I know you do, too. But what happens if, tonight against the Knicks, he fails to leap up and block an Eddy Curry attempt at the basket? Or he can't get far enough off the ground to finish off Rondo's alley-oop pass? Or he can't move quick enough laterally and Danilo Gallinari blows by him on the baseline for a dunk?
Well, then we'll just be back to square one.