EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Derek Jeter's farewell tour touched the Nets' Kevin Garnett, who at 38 is weeks away from tipping off his 20th season in the NBA.
"Watching Jeter and his whole thing has been inspiring,'' Garnett said Monday, "and what I took from it is to enjoy this because you never know when it's going to be your last.''
Garnett has been heeding that mind-set in his first three days of training camp. He's still the same exuberant trash talker whose voice sometimes reverberates around the gym.
He runs a few plays in a halfcourt set before coming out and standing on the baseline. He talks with assistant coach Joe Wolf for a few moments. Seconds later, as Bojan Bogdanovic starts getting into position on a play, Garnett tells the newcomer where to go. Like a kid who can't sit still, Garnett wraps Mirza Teletovic's torso with a playful bear hug.
He bounces over to pick up Deron Williams after a spill, but others beat him to it. He walks to a different part of the court, watching as coach Lionel Hollins puts players through another halfcourt drill.
Mindful of his elite company -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis are the only others in NBA history to play 20 or more seasons -- Garnett isn't taking what may be his final year for granted. He's backing up his comment to the man who drafted him No. 5 overall in 1995 for the Timberwolves.
"I'm very aware of the history,'' Garnett said. "After my first practice, Kevin McHale cracked a joke that I had a bunch of ice on me. I was just turning 19, and I was hurting, and I told him that I want to be in this league for half my life. And he kind of just giggled.
"But he never knew what was inside, so 19 years later, here we are.''
Towering over a throng of media, the 6-11, 220-pound Garnett scans them as if searching for a long-lost friend.
"So where Kevin at?'' he shouts, meaning McHale, the Rockets' coach. "You all shoot that to Kev, reach out to Kev my dog. He's definitely going to hear about it. But I'm motivated and I've always been motivated. I've never had a problem with that.''
Hollins' NBA playing career spanned a decade, so he's well aware of the odds stacked against someone being able to don a pro jersey for as long as Garnett. He's about as impressed as anyone.
"I'm honored to coach a guy that's played 20 years in the league,'' Hollins said, "because it was difficult at the end of 10 for me and I didn't want to play anymore. I was too banged up. But then to see him play 10 more, it's simply amazing.
"And not just from the playing, but from the mental aspect of coming in and being professional every year, every summer, because it doesn't just start in the season, it starts in the summer putting in all the work that it takes to stay in shape, and to come and be productive. I'm amazed and I marvel at him.''
Garnett struggled in his first season as a Net, posting several career lows and missing 19 games battling back spasms. He wanted to adapt to everything, so he tried to be more of a facilitator. Aid in the development of Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee. Take on a leadership role. Find his niche under first-year coach Jason Kidd.
"I'm coming from Beantown, didn't really know what to expect,'' Garnett said. "First year, having Jason, didn't know where I fit in at.''
But with a season in Brooklyn under his belt and an open dialogue with an "old school'' coach in Hollins, Garnett has visions of a different approach.
"I'm going to be a lot more aggressive,'' he said, "but then letting the coach know I'm not 18. If you can, let's be on the same page as far as minutes and stuff like that, just so I have something to give.
"I prepared myself this offseason. Last year, I was indecisive in what I wanted to do with the decision-making. This year, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I did that throughout the whole summer. So I'm in better spirits because I know what I'm here to do this year and I'm here to enjoy this. You never know when it's going to be your last.''