Multiple players have confirmed that Kevin Garnett has been working out at the Brooklyn Nets training facility over the last couple of weeks and now head coach Lionel Hollins has confirmed that he plans on using the veteran as his starting power forward this season.
“There is nobody in the gym that I would put in his place,” Hollins told Tim Bontemps of the NY Post of starting KG at the four. “He has earned the right to have that opportunity, to be the starter from Day 1.
“Somebody has got to knock him out…It’s got to be like a heavyweight fight. I don’t see that really happening, but if it happens then I will deal with that decision when it comes. But I think when we start playing, (Garnett) will be the starting power forward.”
Of course, saying that Garnett will start at the four isn’t exactly like saying that Joe Johnson will start at the two. Garnett, who is 38-years-old, has seen his playing time diminish during each of the last four seasons and averaged just 20.5 minutes a night last season. The way Jason Kidd was using him, he would always be out of the game a mere seven minutes in and wouldn’t return until just before the first half ended.
Hollins suggested that he won’t watch over KG’s minutes the way Kidd did, though. “If he’s healthy and producing, he’s going to play,” Hollins said. “How many minutes? I don’t know. But he is not going to play 15 or 16 minutes [per game]. I can guarantee you that. If he is playing and starting, he’s going to be out there.”
Even if Hollins does up his minutes it’s still hard to see him playing more than 25 minutes a night with the way he tired during games last year. It wouldn’t be a stretch that whomever the backup four is, be it Andrei Kirilenko or Mason Plumlee, they will get plenty of playing time.
As for Garnett’s return, there was speculation that he might retire and walk away from the final $12 million of his contract all offseason. KG said he came close to retiring after he found out about the trade with the Celtics. That was amplified by the fact that nobody seemed to have talked with him all offseason. However, Hollins said that the two have talked since KG has been working out in New Jersey and that he’s happy to know that he will be back.
The Big Ticket appeared in 54 games for the Nets last season and missed significant time with a back injury. When he was healthy, he averaged 11.4 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per 36 minutes. That was, by far, his worst offensive season in his career including his rookie year straight out of high school.