Pau Gasol vs. Kevin Garnett: It’s in the Words
Inside the Battle Between Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett
If the words we speak make our world, then our world is constantly changing, resting on tectonic plates that are slippery as an oil slick from a salesman’s mouth.
The 2008 Finals gave us words like “soft” to describe Pau Gasol. We watched Kevin Garnett bark at Pau, and we saw Pau shiver, bodied up and dismissed, flushed, if one permits, like a roll of Charmin. That series made us view Pau as an ostrich, a large bird that lacked the proper wing structure and temperament for flight, and he’s been fighting gravity ever since.
Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett soared higher in our mind’s eye than ever before. He could say and do anything, and he did. With a championship ring, he became a nightingale inspiring poets to write odes, but the problem with poetry is that it’s written in the language of the moment; and with each passing moment, the words grow heavy from the oil that lubricates the pistons of progress. A few years ago Kevin Garnett was soaring, rising out of and falling into an ocean of words, consisting mostly of his own trash talk, that he feasted on like fish, but now his wings are dipped in a thick, black blood. He will fight on. He will be brave. He will never cease to struggle, but, eventually, time will get him.
We know this, and Pau Gasol knows this, and now the words are in his mouth, but Pau Gasol is only reporting what anyone who watches basketball already knows–Kevin Garnett has “lost some explosiveness.” This story is not new; in fact, Pau seems a little late on reporting the story–more like the testimony of a Louisiana shrimper than the words of an investigative reporter–so why do his words come as such a shock? Perhaps Pau violated some code amongst peers that one does not verbally call out an elder statesman of the game who has achieved more than him, making Pau’s comments a sign of disrespect, but Pau did not appear to utter his words as trash talk. His words did not appear cocky. They were spoken with less emotion that Anderson Cooper uses to report from the Gulf of Mexico, and after his initial observation, Pau went on to make a rather prophetic statement about Kevin Garnett’s state of health: “Time passes and we all suffer it one way or another, but he’s still a terrific player, a terrific competitor, and he’s going to bring everything he’s got. You can count on that.” Pau knows that as long as Kevin Garnett is in uniform KG will bring it every night. There’s no disrespect in that.
Kevin Garnett did not take kindly to Pau’s musings on a basketball player’s mortality, responding, “I have no comment for his comments. For what? Who is he?” Kevin Garnett’s cold dismissal of the issue, that is also a dismissal of Pau, echoes the empty words of a BP representative, denying the seriousness of the issue at hand, an issue that comes to scale when one measures the wingspans of these two big man’s stat lines from Game 1:
Pau Gasol; 47 minutes, 23 points, 57% shooting, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks
Kevin Garnett; 35 minutes, 16 points, 44% shooting, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block
These two big men are clearly locked in one of the key match ups of the series, and that match up will only be intensified by Gasol’s words; but the oil was already in the water. Kevin Garnett was already swimming in it, his habitat and way of life already threatened, Gasol soaring above him like an albatross, mocking the sluggish disaster with the beauty of flight. But the truth of the matter is that even Gasol won’t be able to soar forever. No bird can. All bones, hollow or not, settle on the bottom of the sea.
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