Roderick Boone is a sports reporter covering the New York Jets. He began his Newsday career covering college
SAN FRANCISCO - Kevin Garnett was chatting with Glen "Big Baby" Davis the other day, staying in touch with his former Celtics teammate as he usually does, when he got some surprising news.
"I didn't even know Orlando bought him out," Garnett said Saturday. "It was just by coincidence that we were on the phone and he was going through it the same day. And that's how I found out."
Garnett quickly started to recruit the 6-9, 289-pound Davis, trying to get the seven-year pro to join the Nets and beef up their front line. Davis is expected to clear waivers Monday and the Nets and Clippers are vying for his services, making it essentially a battle of dueling pitches between Garnett and their former Celtics coach, Doc Rivers.
"I guess Baby's a hot commodity right now," Garnett said. "But I do think that he can help us. I think his basketball I.Q. fits into what we do here. He's a talker, he communicates, he understands, he knows championship basketball. So yeah, I think he can definitely help us."
Davis, who averaged 12.1 points and 6.3 rebounds in 45 games with the Magic this season, has an offensive skill set that could benefit the Nets. They're in dire need of another big body and typically are outplayed by teams that employ a traditional power forward-center tandem.
Davis' ability to get it done in the paint, clean the glass and nail jumpers from outside the lane make him a nice complementary piece.
With Garnett and Rivers having been in Davis' ear, it'll be interesting to see whose courtship wins out.
"I've been around those two guys for a few years, and based on their relationships, Doc's relationship with Big Baby and Kevin's relationship with Big Baby, I would say they've both had some up-and-down moments with Big Baby," former Celtic Paul Pierce said with a laugh. "But hopefully Big Baby favors Kevin as a friend in this one."
In a sense, Garnett is almost like a Silicon Valley millionaire who's made his fortune in the stock market. As soon as he opens his mouth and starts offering free advice, everyone's ears perk up.
"He's very convincing," Pierce said. "When he talks, people tend to listen, and the situation with Big Baby, he was like Kevin's little brother. I mean, he wasn't just a teammate. They are really close and we all share a relationship and a bond with guys that you win a championship [with]. But in their situation, they were really close."
Should Davis elect to go elsewhere, Jason Collins remains a fallback option. Garnett is one of many Nets who have played with Collins; they were Celtics teammates last season. Garnett said Collins' game has some similarities to Davis' game, although he "probably doesn't have the distance and the same skill level."
Still, Garnett would be on board with the Nets signing Collins, even if it would bring added attention. He'd be the first openly gay athlete to play in one of this nation's top four professional sports leagues.
"I'm sure the distractions will be just that: distractions," Garnett said. "But I don't think there will be issues. We are all men here. We all understand. We are professionals. We know how to coincide with one another, which is very important when dealing with distractions."
Either way, the Nets can't go much longer without bringing in some reinforcements down low.
"I think whether it's Jason Collins or Big Baby, I think the added depth would really benefit us," Pierce said, "especially since we struggle against these really big teams, such as the Detroits, Indianas of the world. And I just think adding a big body will help us in that department and help us rebounding-wise and defensively."
KG minutes watch
Don't expect Garnett's minutes to increase in the Nets' final 30 games or in the postseason, if they get there.
So says Jason Kidd.
Garnett is averaging a career-low 21.3 minutes per game, down more than eight minutes from the 29.7 he averaged during his final season in Boston. Kidd also has sat him out of six games strictly for rest purposes. When he's not on the floor, the Nets' defensive intensity sags. When he's not in the building, they seem to lack emotion.
But Kidd apparently has no plans to extend Garnett's court time anytime soon.
"He's a veteran guy. He understands," Kidd said. "But for minutes, it's not for us to give him more minutes. It's hopefully for us to take minutes away so we are playing at a high level and we don't have to wear him out."