If you're following these NBA Finals closely, you've probably either heard or read what Pau Gasol had to say at a scheduled press conference when he was asked to compare 2010 Kevin Garnett to 2008 Kevin Garnett. Here's his response to the inquiry:
"On Kevin's part, he's also lost some explosiveness," said Gasol, who had 23 points and 14 rebounds. "He's more of a jump shooter now you could say, comes off the lane. Before he had a really, really quick first step and was getting to the lane and he was more aggressive then. Time passes and we all suffer it one way or another, but he's still a terrific player, a terrific competitor, and he's going to bring everything he's got. You can count on that."
At first glance, this might seem like some sort of attack on Garnett, but personally I'm not convinced that's the case at all. This was not Gasol talking smack to reporters in the locker room immediately following Game 1, in the aftermath of his stellar performance. This was a scheduled press conference and Gasol was both innocently and honestly answering a question that he was asked. Check out the video of it here. Does he look like a guy trying to stir the pot and bash Garnett? Or does he look like a guy just answering a question? I'm siding with the latter of the two. And typically, in th NBA, when one guy is attempting to strike down another with the spoken word, he won't end his statement with a line like: "But he's still a terrific player, a terrific competitor, and he's going to bring everything he's got. You can count on that." To me, that last line is Gasol acknowledging his respect for Garnett, and the first part of his statement was him simply speaking the truth about Garnett getting older and slowing down somewhat. Guys get older and they do lose explosiveness and athleticism. It happened to Michael Jordan, it happened to Magic Johnson, it happened to Wilt Chamberlain, and it will happen to Kevin Garnett, and perhaps already is.
Of course, this wouldn't be the NBA Finals without a reaction from Kevin Garnett:
Speaking with reporters in a much more casual setting than Gasol, Garnett must have caught wind of the comments (probably by a reporter who did nothing more than read part of Gasol's statement, so all KG probably heard was the line and not the circumstances surrounding it), and when asked for a reply he said: "I have no comments for his comments. For what? Who is he?"
Rajon Rondo also gave his take on the matter: "I just can't wait. I didn't know (Gasol) said that, but I'll be excited to see how it goes in Game 2."
A rather sly, anticipatory grin stretched across Rondo's face as he said that, by the way.
The bad news for Gasol is that even though his comments did seem legitimately innocent, he has no doubt fueled an open fire. Many of us were counting on KG to bounce back in a big way in Game 2 anyway, simply because of his lackluster play in Game 1. But now, throw in Gasol's comments, and KG's incentive just skyrocketed.
Gasol might have just earned himself the Mike Bibby/Quentin Richardson treatment when this series shifts back to Boston, and if Garnett and the Celtics come out enraged and take Game 2 in convincing fashion, he could very well end up kicking himself for what he said, even though he most likely wasn't trying to insult Boston's Big Ticket.