Kevin Garnett hoping to fit in, recapture days of old with Nets

Nets' Kevin Garnett, left, drives around Minnesota Timberwolves' Nets' Kevin Garnett, left, drives around Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love in the first quarter. (Nov. 22, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Roderick Boone Newsday columnist Roderick Boone

Roderick Boone is a sports reporter covering the New York Jets. He began his Newsday career covering college ...

It was as if he were the mayor -- shaking hands, doling out bear hugs and exchanging pleasantries in his booming voice.

He received an ovation during pregame introductions, but that was just the appetizer. One with more gusto and emphasis came minutes later, when a video montage played during a timeout, showing appreciative fans some of his glory days with the franchise.

If the Nets could see Kevin Garnett flash back to those Timberwolves days on occasion, rather than the struggling 37-year-old version, they'd be in much better shape than their current 3-9 plight.

"I'm a different person now," Garnett said. "Different times."

Some would say he's not even close to the player he was during his time in Boston, much less in Minnesota.

Garnett averaged 20.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 38.3 minutes per game while wearing Timberwolves garb. That's a far cry from the numbers he has posted through 12 games with the Nets. He's averaging 6.7 points and 6.7 rebounds and is shooting 36.1 percent from the floor.

"Right now, I'm just trying to figure out the system and where I fit in at," Garnett said. "Jason [Kidd, the Nets' coach] wants more ball movement, so I'm trying to initiate that. I care less about my offense right now. I haven't been too offensive-minded. I've been trying to be primarily defensive-minded and slow teams down and kind of be the example for that."

Garnett's numbers take a dramatic dip in the second half of each game, coinciding with the Nets' sluggish efforts after halftime. His second-half PIE (player impact estimate) stood at 0.8 percent entering Friday, which was much different from the 16.4 percent he's posted in the first half.

Still, Kidd isn't alarmed. Neither is Garnett, who twice said "next question" when queried Friday about when he plans to retire.

"For him, he just has to continue to shoot," Kidd said. "We've all been in this situation as players that sometimes the ball doesn't go in. It's a test when you give in to it. He's a guy that won't give up. He's continued to work on his game, and coaches and players in that locker room believe that those shots will fall."

Assistance, please

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With Brook Lopez sitting out the past four games nursing a sprained ankle, the Nets have become too reliant on jumpers. That's not going to get it done, and even when Lopez comes back, the Nets might be better off alternating touches between their 7-footer and Joe Johnson on the low blocks.

Johnson typically has a height advantage over most shooting guards and he's very effective in the post. He can back defenders down to get a good look at the basket and often easily sees over whomever is guarding him, swinging the ball to the open man when double teams present themselves. But Nets coach Jason Kidd points to the Nets' lack of assists as the main culprit for their offensive woes of late. They're averaging 18.8 assists per game, ranking them 24th in the league entering Saturday night.

"We have to move the ball," Kidd said. "We only had seven assists [Friday]. So you can throw it in the post, you can isolate someone. But we have to move the ball and we are just not doing it."

Let's face it

Through 12 games, the Nets have been an utter disappointment. They have zero cohesiveness. No offensive rhythm. A Swiss cheese defense. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce haven't displayed that championship pedigree.

All in all, they're a mess and it's embarrassing for a veteran-laden unit that's supposed to be prideful. There are no moral wins for a team with a $102-million payroll.

"We are down," Andray Blatche told Newsday after Friday's brutal 111-81 loss. "We are taking that punch to the face and we've got to rebound off of it. We've got to get our feet under us and fight back.

"A lot of teams, they know that we are down, so they are trying to jump on us early. So we've got to figure it out as a team. We can't say, 'It's the coaches.' We can't say it's none of that. We've got to figure it out on our own."

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