EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 1, 2009

Garnett's injury striking fear in Boston

Garnett's injury striking fear in the city of Boston

Alan Siegel

Bostonians do hysteria well.

Snow in the forecast? Buy out the local Stop & Shop! Stockpile batteries! Dust off the candles!

Athlete injured? Even worse. It's a winter storm times 5,000.

The latest body part in peril, Kevin Garnett's sore right knee, is causing blizzard-like panic. Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters yesterday that his hyperkinetic big man would be "shut down" — What is Garnett, a Terminator? — for at least the next 12 days. Admittedly, I was not at yesterday's practice, but here are Doc's words:

"After watching him move today, we're just going to shut him down. It probably won't be for the year. He'll probably play by the end, (the) last couple of games, or (the) last three games. It's just not progressing the way we anticipated it would progress."

Garnett has missed 15 games since straining his knee in a 90-85 loss to Utah Feb. 19. He has not played since Boston's 84-82 loss to Orlando March 25. According to a report by The Eagle-Tribune's Bill Burt, KG turned down surgery to avoid missing the playoffs.

At this point, it's unclear whether Garnett's furlough is a precautionary move or a sign of imminent disaster. If it's the latter, Boston's title hopes will disappear faster than the pile of chocolate-covered Twinkies I saw at a recent media buffet.

"If he is not healthy," Celtics radio analyst Cedric Maxwell said during a television interview Monday night, "you do not win a championship."

But really, how bad is it? Nobody who knows is talking. At least substantively. General manager Danny Ainge, in an interview with Michael Holley that aired on Comcast last night, called Garnett a "rhythm guy."

But when KG's knee didn't seem to get better during his initial return, the brass decided to sit him down, "and make sure," Ainge said, "he's 100 percent healthy."

So now it's speculation time. Without any Red Sox controversy in sight, the press needs something to chew on (besides chocolate-covered Twinkies). There'll be a million stories, many of which will lack new information (I'm not absolving myself). Unless some news breaks, good or bad, the next few weeks are going to be slow and painful for Celtics fans.

And imagine how Garnett is taking the news. I get the feeling he'd rather play with two torn ACLs and an ulcer than rest.

"We're trying to take it out of Kevin's hands," Ainge said, smartly.

Like Garnett, New England is antsy. Like January 2008, when Tom Brady's booted foot became fodder for TMZ, and last October, when Josh Beckett's sore oblique muscles sent the Fenway Park press box into a tizzy, KG's injury is raising our collective blood pressure. After all, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year was invaluable to the Celtics' championship run last year.

His numbers — 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game — may not look spectacular. But with KG, you have to dig a little deeper. 82games.com has him seventh in the NBA in its Roland Ratings, the well-regarded Web site's version of an overall player ranking system. Even a half-speed Garnett would be a tremendous boost. Garnett, unfortunately, doesn't do half-speed.

"I don't think he can play that way," Maxwell said.

A nightmare for sure. But we knew it was a possibility. Garnett was 31 when he landed here. He's turning 33 in May. At the very least, he'll be remembered for one spectacular season as a Celtic. Unlike Bill Walton, who starred as Boston's sixth man in 1985-86 before a career-ending foot injury derailed his 1986-87 season, KG will probably get another shot at glory.

At the moment, there's only one thing Garnett can do to end the hysteria. Show up to tonight's game against the Bobcats, suit up, then before playing 30 minutes of pain-free basketball, turn to the crowd and scream, in his anything-is-possible voice, "APRIL FOOL'S!"