BOSTON — Kobe Bryant knew exactly what he was doing when he answered a question about his old friend Kevin Garnett Thursday afternoon with three words sure to provoke.
When the topic of Garnett’s increasing edginess or crankiness or tightly-wound-ed-ness — whatever we want to call his flare-ups with opponents and referees as his career stretches on — Bryant said simply: “He’s a Celtic.”
Added Bryant several hours before the Los Angeles Lakers game against Boston at TD Garden: “That’s what Celtics do.” After a beat, he laughed and said: “You guys will love that one.”
Bryant is in a unique position to understand or at least witness the temper and intensity of Garnett. For one, they knew each other back when both were prep phenoms more than 15 years ago. They have been friends since then, and they now play on opposite sides of one of the greatest rivalries in all sports. So after tapping into that, Bryant went a little deeper.
“No, he’s always been intense. I’ve known him since high school and he’s always been intense. But he’s a great guy. … He’s not [a jerk] by any stretch of the imagination. He’s just a good dude. When he’s in there, he plays his heart out.”
How serious and mean-spirited Garnett is when he’s blistering an opponent with profanity-laced trash talk or delivering a dubious elbow or tap to one’s nether regions, only the Boston power forward ultimately can tell us. But the bile between the Lakers and the Celtics is legit, though, pre-dating Bryant, Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and the rest of them. Bryant seemed to know his history, too.
“Danny Ainge. Kurt [Rambis] getting clotheslined. Y’know, we’re the good guys,” he said.
“To me it’s easy to separate it. Especially with guys that you know. Like KG, Paul and those guys. … I love to talk. Paul likes to talk, KG likes to talk. I’m probably the only one on my team that likes to talk. So I’ll probably be jawing with all of ‘em tonight. It’s fun.”