LONDON - Few things get a big rise out of Kevin Garnett these days, and it's unusual for the savvy veteran to open the emotional floodgates and let people inside his at times mysterious world.
A visit to Chelsea FC's pitch, as they call soccer fields on this side of the Atlantic, and customized blue jersey of the famed English Premier League team was just enough to do the trick.
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"It was overwhelming, I'll be honest," Garnett said Wednesday at O2 Arena as the Nets (15-22) got set to take on the Hawks (20-18) Thursday. "For the first time in a long time, I was a fan of something other than basketball and I enjoyed the experiences. I wish it wasn't so media-driven and I actually could've enjoyed it a little bit more. But it was cool to be a kid again, to have those feelings again."
Probably just as refreshing as it's been to regain his confidence.
Garnett has played well of late, finding the necessary pulse in his offense repertoire. In his last four games dating to the Nets' huge Jan. 2 win in Oklahoma City, he's shooting 61.9 percent from the floor, nailing 13 of 21 shots. He's averaging 8.3 points and eight rebounds, posting a plus-minus of 12.
"Shooting-wise, I think I'm shooting the ball a little bit better, rhythm-wise a little bit better than before," Garnett said. "But it doesn't mean I'm playing better or worse. It just means that I'm shooting the ball better. But yeah, I feel like I'm starting to get a rhythm a little bit."
Apparently, he's already shown his teammates he's rather wild about soccer. Reggie Evans found out firsthand, when adidas hooked him up with a ball and he brought it into the locker room one day a little over a month ago.
"KG was like, 'Aw man, I need that, I need that, I need that,' " Andray Blatche said. "But KG, he's real big on soccer. I'll be coming into practice and see him watching soccer games a lot. He loves it. He loves it, honestly. He's a fan of it."
Evans, of course, wanted to stay in Garnett's good graces. So he did the only thing he could: He coughed up the ball. Quickly.
"He's big into it, he's deep into it," Evans said. "Like real deep. When he saw it, he was like, 'Oh!' and going crazy. Me, I was like . . . "
Evans then extended his right hand, making a motion as if he was rolling the ball off his fingers. " 'Here you go,' " he said. " 'Here you go.' "
Given how he said Garnett's work ethic has rubbed off on him, it might've been the least Evans could do. Evans said he looks up to Garnett, all because of the time he's putting in during his 19th season. Seeing Garnett go hard, even on those days when the team has a very light workload, has inspired him.
"One day," Evans said, "I came in and was telling my wife, 'I'm tired, I don't feel like doing nothing.' I said, 'This is just one of them days, baby.' And she was like, 'Well, just chill' and I'm like, 'All right, I think I'm going to tell them I'm going to chill out today.' Then as soon as I go in the gym, I see him shooting and I'm like, 'Aww man.'
"But I ended up practicing and when I practiced, I felt good. So when you see stuff like that, it's motivation."
That's the Garnett that Paul Pierce grew accustomed to seeing, and he's sure Garnett will continue to find his way with the Nets, contributing in a variety of ways even when his shooting stroke is off as it's been for a better part of the season.
"I think he's getting more and more comfortable with everything we're doing on both ends of the court," Pierce said. "But at the end of the day, Kevin will tell you that even when his shot is not falling, he's our defensive leader and that's what he hangs his hat on."
Well, that and an affinity for soccer.