EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The trash talk will be flying Sunday when the Nets face the Minnesota Timberwolves at Barclays Center, and the Nets will be loving it.
That’s because the guy talking most of that trash, Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett, is a former Net who left a lasting image on the team and remains a beloved figure to his former teammates and coach.
“He brought a lot,’’ Nets coach Lionel Hollins said Saturday. “He worked hard. He didn’t like to take any days off — you had to make him get out of practice. And he even made the guys stretch. There’s guys laying over there don’t take it seriously. KG took it seriously. And he made everybody else take it seriously.’’
Hollins compared Garnett — who was traded to the Nets with Paul Pierce and Jason Terry before the 2014-15 season and who played 42 games for them last season before being dealt to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young — to a father figure for most of the Nets.
“You know, it’s like life,’’ Hollins said. “When you grow up and you see your dad get up every morning at 4:30, 5 o’clock in the morning, go to work and come home at 8 o’clock at night, and you know the reason why you’re living the way you’re living is because of his work ethic, and you start following it. And [your dad] may tell you some things.
“KG is the same way. KG worked hard, and he also told you how you could work hard. He told you what you could do. Practices were spirited because KG had a lot of energy and a lot of life. The more guys like that you have on a team, the better it is.’’
Garnett, 39 and in his 20th NBA season, isn’t a star anymore. In his second tour of duty with the Timberwolves, he starts at power forward but averages only 15.8 minutes, 3.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. But he still has a big impact on a team.
Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez had big smiles when asked about him, and Lopez said Garnett was his favorite NBA player when he was growing up.
“I don’t think I can laud ‘Big Ticket’ enough for the kind of teammate and the person in general that he is,’’ Lopez said. “I learned so much from him in his time here. He’s always been a role model of mine.’’
When they were teammates, Lopez said he and Garnett spoke often about having each other’s backs. Lopez chuckled when asked if he would have defended Garnett if the NBA’s most notorious trash-talker had ever said something that led to a physical confrontation. He also said he’s prepared to get an earful from Garnett on Sunday.
How will he handle it?
“I’ll try to go back at him,’’ Lopez said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Meanwhile, the Nets fell to 7-19 with Friday night’s 104-97 loss to Indiana, a game that featured another blown fourth-quarter lead.
According to Johnson, the common theme in all of the Nets’ fourth-quarter failures is that they crumble defensively.
“Defensively we can’t get stops,’’ he said. “Because we’re so worried about our man scoring that we have a tendency not to help. And it’s just kind of like you’re on an island by yourself.’’
Hollins said the players seem to lose confidence in the defensive plan late in games.
“It’s like, ‘My man’s not going to score,’ ’’ Hollins said. “You’ve got to continue to play the same way no matter what part of the game it is, and that’s just a confidence thing and that belief that if you do it the right way, it’s going to work.’’