Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett (5) shoots during practice. (June...

Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett (5) shoots during practice. (June 12, 2010) Credit: AP

BOSTON - Kevin Garnett said Saturday that he had some misconceptions about Boston, thinking of it as a city with an underlying lack of racial tolerance before he was traded to the Celtics from the Timberwolves in 2007. Garnett initially hedged on agreeing to the trade, which required he sign a contract extension, because he wasn't comfortable with the idea of playing in Boston.

"To be honest with you, I think the perception of Boston is a lot different when you live here and I understand it now," Garnett said after yesterday's practice before Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Sunday night at the TD Garden. "I don't think it's a white-and-black thing. Winning does help everything, I will say that."

Despite a legacy that includes Bill Russell, one of the greatest African-American athletes in sports history, and Red Auerbach, who made Chuck Cooper the first African-American selected in an NBA draft, and black coaches from Russell to K.C. Jones to Doc Rivers, the Celtics have had a stigma of being a franchise only whites could root for. This is mostly a result of the Larry Bird Era, which is something that often annoyed Bird, himself.

Garnett was born and raised in South Carolina and, before the Celtics, played his entire pro career, which began at the age of 19, in Minnesota. His experiences with most NBA cities were as a visitor and, often, the enemy. And as any New Yorker knows, Boston can be a tough place when you're the enemy. Garnett said he had to realize that the aggression he faced from intense Bostonians was "nothing personal, it's nothing deliberate . . . I think a couple of cities, they would say it's kind of deliberate, but for the most of it, it's not. It's just you're an outsider and you're not on the inside of the bowl. That's what it is.

"Once you're on the inside, you belong here and you're embraced from the minute you get here," Garnett continued. "If you're a student of the game and you understand the [importance] of the tradition here, all of that comes into play with the responsibility of putting the green on. It's not a white or black thing here."

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