Retired NBA legend Kevin Garnett made his first appearance of the season at a Milwaukee Bucks practice on Tuesday.
Since the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer was a 15-time All-Star, NBA MVP and NBA champion during his playing days, he has a lot to offer, both from a hands-on approach and a cerebral one.
As perhaps the most intense player in league history, he demands and commands respect from everyone under his tutelage, and seemingly could have a career as a coach in the future if he chooses to go down that path.
After showing up at a couple of Jason Kidd’s practice sessions last year, KG offered his wisdom to one young player in particular on Tuesday: second-year center Thon Maker, whom he also guided through workouts a few times last season.
As you might imagine, the session was intense.
“Garnett barked at Maker for watching his shots instead of turning to catch a pass to put up another. He slapped Maker's stomach, testing his focus and strength while he launched jump shots. Garnett reminded Maker to slow himself down and let the game come to him,” Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
"A lot of the stuff is, now, is more — especially with myself — him telling me to slow down a little bit," Maker said after the workout. "Saying, 'You have the speed, the quickness, so you can always go to it, but just slow it down a little bit, look at the defense, read it then attack.’”
As he did with his opponents, Garnett tried to get under the skin of the 20 year old. But, unlike with his opponents, he did it for a positive reason.
“By the end, Garnett was annoyingly bouncing a basketball off Maker's back as he shot from the foul line. While doing that, he was reinforcing the positive mentality Maker should maintain at all times,” Velazquez wrote.
"What are you talking about, Thon," Garnett asked. "What are you thinking about, Thon? Best in the (expletive) gym. ... That's the dream, Thon.”
Maker was taken with the 10th overall selection by the Bucks in the 2016 NBA Draft. After averaging 4.0 points and 2.0 rebounds in 9.9 minutes per game over 57 contests (34 starts) last season, the 7’1”, 223-pound center has failed to make much of an impact this season, posting just 4.8 points and 3.1 rebounds in 17.5 minutes over 13 contests (seven starts).
"I had a slow start, but in terms of myself and having that mindset, I kind of got a chance to look at it again today when we spoke and worked on a few things," Maker said about being able to work with Garnett. "It's the approach. I keep on mentioning that because if you have the right mindset, the right approach, you just automatically tell your body to do that work. It's something I've been missing early on this year but I'm getting back to it."
Although Maker’s offensive game is still very raw and he was drafted as a long-term project, it is a bit concerning to see that his defensive impact hasn’t made a leap forward, given his size and the fact that he has virtually played double the minutes that he averaged last season.
Going 10-of-28 so far from beyond the arc, Maker has a proven ability to hit shots from the perimeter, which could make him quite an asset moving forward if he can get into a groove. Since Greg Monroe was traded away, he will seemingly see more opportunities moving forward, as he will likely continue to split time with John Henson down low. He has played 23 and 22 minutes respectively over the last two contests, both of which were season-highs.
Milwaukee plays host to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. We will see if Garnett’s wisdom and advice rubs off on Maker in that contest and moving forward.