The Brooklyn Nets locker room is laid out somewhat like a labyrinth. On one end is a private room for players, employees, and friends of the team, with couches and chairs, a giant flat-screen television with perpetual ESPN playing, and food. On the other end is a sliding door that leads to the showers and bathroom area. In the middle are the lockers, the center of the storm, where the media get granted access.
Shaun Livingston on Garnett: "Some people just have a presence about them when they speak, and he’s one of those people."
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 9, 2014
Following the team's 102-98 victory over the Golden State Warriors, the media -- myself included -- entered the locker room a little before 10:20 P.M. Kevin Garnett, fresh off his best fourth quarter of the season, was screaming with joyful passion in the back area, hidden from view. It wasn't exactly clear what he was saying, but it was clear who was saying it: Garnett yelled forcefully for minutes on end, with few breaks, at anyone who happened to be passing by.
After leading an upset over a team that had won ten straight heading into the contest, he had every reason -- and license -- to yell. Garnett offered little offense in the first 36 minutes, just a jumper in the second quarter, before putting together his best all-around quarter of the season with the game on the line, hitting four of six shots and all three of his free throws in the final quarter.
He but bookended the quarter with two key defensive plays: a block on what looked like an open layup for Stephen Curry, and a steal that all but sealed the game on a Curry pass at the top of the key.
Garnett finished the game 5-7 from the field, mostly on his patented midrange jumper. "I work on my craft every day, so I expect it to be a certain way," Garnett said of his jumper.
"When I go to dial her up, I want her to pick the phone up. Tonight I dialed, and she was right there, answering like you're supposed to."
"Offensively and defensively he's been off the charts," head coach Jason Kidd said of his 37-year-old starting center. "Defensively, he has been incredible for us since that Oklahoma game. He looks like he's 25, and tonight, offensively, he looked like he was 21."
At about 10:25, Nets center Andray Blatche walked out of the back, fully dressed and ready to speak with the media. With a sly smile, Blatche looked at us and sang: "I'm the man, I'm the man, I'm the man," the refrain from Kevin Garnett's recent Beats By Dre commercial.
We knew why. For one moment, one game-clinching quarter, against one of the toughest teams in the NBA, Kevin Garnett was the man once again.