Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett used criticism from Atlanta Hawks owner Michael Gearon Jr. on the way to a 28-point, 14-rebound performance that knocked the Hawks out of the playoffs.
Before the game Gearon called Garnett the dirtiest guy in the league and said that the old Celtics got preferential treatment from the referees.
We don't get any calls, which I know everybody always hears, Gearon said. But I'll give you a stat. Last night, we are playing this old physical team. They are old. I know what happens when you play basketball: Old guys foul. Garnett is the dirtiest guy in the league. We are playing Boston (Tuesday) night and they had two fouls the whole first half. We had five times that and we're athletic.
Boston used those comments to propel itself to an 83-80 win and got a vintage performance from Garnett. Garnett acknowledged after the game that Gearon's comments were a source of inspiration for him and the rest of the Celtics.
First off, I want to say thank you to the (Hawks) owner for giving me some extra gas tonight, Garnett said. My only advice to him is next time he opens his mouth, actually know what he's talking about -- X's and O's versus checkbooks and bottom lines.
Garnett took particular umbrage with being called old by Gearon. He said that not only did he not play dirty, but that he still brings value on the court even at 35-years-old.
I don't want to come off kind of wrong, but I really go with my craft and I take it very seriously, he said. I guess being 35 -- soon to be 36, not 37, (19)76 (birth year), look it up -- I put a lot of work into my craft. I take it very seriously. I always have, since '95, since I've been able to come into the league and it's almost like you guys are shocked. Like this ain't what I do every day, like this ain't what I was made for. It does come off disrespectful at times. I put a lot of work and time into this, and there are certain levels I expect from myself. ...
I take this very seriously, so you guys calling me old, that number defies. You have no idea what you are doing when you say those 'old' comments. I appreciate that. I don't read your columns, but it gets back to me.
The Celtics will take on the Philadelphia 76ers in the next round of the playoffs after the 76ers knocked off the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.