Q&A with Kevin Garnett: Raptors, free agency drama and the Yao Ming bounty

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Kevin Garnett retired in 2016 after 21 seasons in the league. During that time, he won a championship, an MVP award, an NBA Defensive Player of the Year award, made four All-NBA First Teams, and was one of the most fierce and intense competitors ever. You can still feel the same energy from Garnett these days as a television personality on TNT.

He is passionate about the game and still very opinionated about everything that is going on. Garnett has stayed involved, too, working out individually with players including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jaren Jackson Jr.

On Monday at 9 p.m. ET on NBA TV, Garnett will sit down for a one-on-one interview with Dwyane Wade to talk about his career as it winds down. This week, Yahoo Sports spoke with Garnett about what he appreciated the most about his NBA career as it was coming to an end, why he thinks Anthony Davis should talk to Danny Ainge, what advice he would give Kevin Durant, why the Raptors are a scary team, and the time everyone on Team USA tried to dunk on Yao Ming at the Olympics.

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In your interview with Dwyane Wade, he talked about what he’s starting to appreciate about his NBA career in his final season. What did you start appreciating in your last few years in the league?

I started to really appreciate the travel and the fact I got to go to every dope city in the U.S., and the world. I got to go to Shanghai, I got to go to London. Just appreciated how well travelled you are when you’re in the league and how you’re able to see every city in its glamour form. The last couple of years, I would take more pictures. I would actually get out and roam through the whole city. I did a lot of that my last few years in the league. I’m a scene freak. I love the scene. I love beautiful whatever it is, whether it’s valleys or what not.

You must have a few memorable stories from travelling overseas, like in Shanghai.

I have a bunch. I had Peking duck in Shanghai and someone nicknamed it Shanghai duck. They kept saying there’s this Shanghai duck and there’s this Peking duck but to me it tasted the same. They kept the joke going and it was [expletive] with me a little bit.

So you’re like pretty open-minded with trying different foods when you’re travelling.

As long as it’s not moving, man. As long as that shit ain’t moving. I like food to be food, you understand. I’m pretty open. I’m not a foodie. I’m not a guy that’s gonna be out there looking for different cuisine. I don’t disrespect it. I can appreciate it. It’s just not something where I’m like, “oh my god, this is awesome! This is amazing!.” I’m definitely not that.

I had this unbelievable boiled lobster once. They boiled the lobster alive. It was some of the softest meat, oh my god, it was unbelievable. But the whole experience of it being alive and then eating it at the same time was a bit weird for me. That was a pretty different experience but a dope one at the same time.

So you won’t eat anything that’s like live, like moving octopus.

Yeah I can’t. I’m cool on that one.

So KG, the guy who won’t back down to anyone, will back down from moving octopus.

I’m not saying I won’t back down. I would definitely cut its ass into pieces so this part and that isn’t moving around.

I wanted to get your thoughts about a lot of the free agency noise that’s been going on around the league recently, especially since you were a superstar who dealt with the same things in your career. First, Anthony Davis’s dad recently said he didn’t want his son to play for the Celtics because of how Danny Ainge treated Isaiah Thomas. What did you think about that?

He had his opinion and he voiced it. However they do it in Anthony Davis’s camp, as far as picking a landing spot, family is always going to be passionate. That’s his father and he wants his son to be in the best situation that he can be professionally and he wants his son to win. He wants him to be in an environment where it feels like his son is being supported. Anybody who is a parent would understand him standing up for his son and wanting him to be in a better situation.

What I would love is if he actually talked to Danny, and knew what kind of individual and human being he is. Danny is the No. 1 family guy. I know his dad feels passionate, but I’m sure Danny had his reasoning as to why things were how they were with Isaiah. A lot of people have to understand this is a business. Organizations are always going to do what they feel is best for the organization, and players should think the same.

Kevin Durant has taken issue with how the media is treating his impending free agency. What advice would you give him?

You have to understand. When media outlets or anybody wants any of your energy and time, you control that. I would tell him, if he was able to, to block things out. There are tons of ways to be able to let media know about your frustrations, what’s frustrating you, and most of them understand that. I would just focus on basketball. I wouldn’t focus on the questions, on the media, I would focus on basketball, and winning, and trying to three-peat, and forming my legacy. My advice to him would be to let the questions be what they are, answer what you feel, and if you don’t feel like answering, say next question. It’s that simple. You control it.

Meanwhile, the top teams in the East — Milwaukee, Toronto and Philadelphia — all made moves to upgrade their rosters for a playoff run. Where do you see the Raptors fitting in among that group?

I see Toronto right up there with Milwaukee, right up there with Philadelphia and Boston. I see them making more noise in the postseason this year. Because of their past, I think some of the players that have come from that environment are ready now to push through. I think the Raptors are looking at this year like it’s their year. Funny enough, the Bucks are thinking the same thing, and the 76ers are thinking the same thing. It’s going to be interesting to see where everyone ends up.

I love Toronto. I love Kawhi. He’s one of my favorite players to watch. I love to sit down and just watch him do his one-two. I love the way he competes on both ends. I love the dynamic of him and Kyle [Lowry] and now they got Marc [Gasol], too. I look for them to start to jell and really start to put the whole thing together. I like the general manager up there, Masai [Ujiri]. He’s really good at putting solid pieces together. They’re a scary team. They’re one of those teams that can beat yo ass with any style.

The Bucks look like the best team in the East right now. You’ve had a chance to work out with Giannis Antetokounmpo. We all know he’s already playing at an MVP level. What else would you like to see him add to his game?

The one-dribble and two-dribble pull up. That’s what made Kobe [Bryant] and Michael [Jordan] so tough. They would low dribble, jab step and shoot. That was such a hard move to defend. The one-dribble pull up? You don’t even understand how technical of a move that is. He’s already perfected the Euro step. If he added a little hook shot, that would never hurt. Work on his post game, being able to fade both ways, to the middle and to the baseline. But man, he’s making the game look so simple. A lot of the stuff I’m talking about is just adding parts. He doesn’t even necessarily need those things. There’s a couple of things though. The three ball will help his game, and if he ever gets that one-dribble, two-dribble pull up, that would be unbelievable.

He’s a really fun personality off the court but there’s also this burning desire to win and ultra competitiveness about him. Did you see that come out during the workouts?

You have to understand, when Giannis first came into the league, he was facing guys like myself, Kobe and Tim Duncan. We were still in the league when he came in. He was not only able to interact but also get some of those yesteryear gems and glimpses from us. He was super competitive when he first came into the league. If you remember him in the playoffs against the Bulls. You were left looking like, man, this kid is going to be something. Obviously I’ve had the pleasure of working with him. Shit, he’s very intense. I understood that. We connected off that. He’s a great listener. A total sponge. He wants to be the best. He doesn’t care about being liked, about making friends. He has a vision for himself.

Vince Carter and Kevin Garnett celebrate after taking home Olympic gold in Sydney. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Vince Carter and Kevin Garnett celebrate after taking home Olympic gold in Sydney. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

And lastly, I have to ask you about Vince Carter’s dunk over Frederic Weis at the 2000 Olympics. You were the first one on the court to greet Vince after the dunk, give him a little chest bump. What do you remember about that exact moment?

Everything just paused. First of all, people didn’t know, we had a bounty out on Yao Ming. The whole USA team had a bet. We had a million dollar bet on who was going to be the first person to dunk on Yao Ming. None of us did. We all tried to dunk on Yao, but he would block it or we would miss. So, the first thing I thought of when I saw Vince dunk over Frederic was oh shit, you won the million dollars. But then I realized it obviously wasn’t Yao. I pushed Vince, and if you look at the clip, he almost punches me in the face by accident. But my first thought was, oh shit, you won, you got the million.

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