KG More Jackass Than Tough Guy
Either Kevin Garnett does not keep up with current events or he deserves a punch in the mouth.
I'd go with the latter.
Boston's forward allegedly called Detroit's Charlie Villanueva a "cancer patient" during their game Tuesday night. Villanueva has alopecia universalis, a skin condition that leads to total hair loss.
He has no hair on his head, meaning Villanueva looks like a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy.
If that didn't make you laugh, perhaps Garnett's denial will.
"I am aware there was a major miscommunication regarding something I said on the court last night," he said in a statement released by his public relations agency. "My comment to Charlie Villanueva was in fact 'You are cancerous to your team and our league.' "
Do you really think a player in full-throated throttle would say, "You are cancerous to your team and our league?" Everybody within earshot would have broken up laughing or checked to make sure Garnett hadn't suddenly been inhabited by the voice of Sir Laurence Olivier.
Believe him if you want. I suspect KG was just being KG. You know the routine.
He howls and scowls and pounds his chest and generally tries to be the baddest dude in the building. An integral part of the act is insulting his opponent, a.k.a. trash talking.
I always preferred tough guys like Lucas. He was called "The Enforcer," and he didn't do it by flapping his tongue. All it took was a glare. Nothing more need be said.
KG hasn't shut up in 16 years. I always thought he was so good that he didn't need to demean his opponents. Even in his declining days, he's still better than the 26-year-old Villanueva.
That made the Pistons' forward easy prey for the bully. They jawed for much of the game.
Things got hot with less than three minutes left, and both were given technicals. Villanueva later posted a message on his Twitter account that explained his take on things. It's a bit more believable than Garnett's "major miscommunication" spin.
"KG called me a cancer patient, I'm pissed because, u know how many people died from cancer, and he's tossing it like it's a joke."
To hardcore trash-talk aficionados, it's all a joke. Nothing is off limits. The whole point is to get inside your opponent's head.
Congratulations, KG. You hit a sore spot with Villanueva.
He's a spokesman for the NAAF (National Alopecia Areata Foundation). The disease affects roughly one in every 125,000 men and one in every 250,000 women. Villanueva received the NBA's Community Assist Award in 2006 for his work with the foundation.
He regularly speaks to children stricken with alopecia. You can imagine the "cancer patient" taunts they get from other kids. But at least those playground bullies have an excuse.
They are children. Garnett is 34.
That's old enough to know there is a line of decency, even in trash talking. It's been around forever, so players were undoubtedly calling George Mikan a lot worse things than "Four Eyes." But it's much easier being a faux tough guy these days.
Portland columnist John Canzano recalled a story the other day about Lucas in 2008. He was a Blazers assistant, and Greg Oden had just gotten the full Garnett treatment during his first NBA road trip.
The rookie sat somewhat dazed in the locker room afterward. Lucas walked past and said that when he played, nobody trash-talked like Garnett.
"Back then," he said, "it was only a $50 fine for punching a guy in the mouth."
Now it's a one-game suspension for shoving a guy. That affords bullies plenty of protection.
Lucas left the Blazers last year after being diagnosed with bladder cancer. Portland has dedicated its season to Lucas. Players will wear memorial patches on their uniforms.
They now have an idea what a real cancer patient looks like. You almost wish Garnett had broken out his cancer schtick against the Blazers. Chances are he would have gotten more blowback than a Tweet.
Or even better, you wish somehow, someway KG could have been transported back to 1977 and tried his bully routine on a real enforcer.
It would have been the best $50 Lucas ever spent.