BOSTON – Kevin Garnett has been forever been renowned as a warrior and regarded as one of the elite NBA players of the last 15 years. He's a lock Hall of Famer who is revered by fans for his relentless work ethic on and off the court.
But he's also widely considered within the NBA as a punk.
"I think they're trying to punk us," Miami forward Michael Beasley said following Boston's 85-76 win over the Heat in the series opener.
"That's their mentality," added Heat star Dwyane Wade.
By they , and their , Beasley and Wade were talking about KG.
The latest example came with 40 seconds left in Game 1 on Saturday night when the Celtics forward threw a left elbow to Quentin Richardson's noggin, directly in front of the Heat bench.
"I saw [Richardson] standing over Paul [Pierce] talking nonsense," Garnett said. "I just asked him to give him some room. Before you knew it, mayhem started."
That's true, Kevin.
And you were the one who started it.
Pierce had been knocked out of bounds by an Udonis Haslem shoulder and then fell to the ground after colliding with a referee. Richardson walked near Pierce and Garnett took offense.
"I thought what he did was a little disrespectful, standing over a guy who is hurt," Garnett said. "Just talking nonsense."
"I was just trying to get over there to take the ball out of bounds and he started to talk to me so I talked back," Richardson said. "I don't have any business talking to Pierce since he was on the ground crying. I don't know what was going on."
"Two actresses over there," he added. "That's what they are."
Garnett's a bully. He yells and screams profanities and no one talks as much "nonsense" as Garnett. Maybe not in any sport at any level.
He said he had no recollection of elbowing Richardson in the head.
Maybe it's because he's got such a lengthy litany of incidents in his distinguished career.
He slapped everybody's All-American, Tim Duncan, in the head back when he was with the Minnesota Timberwolves. More recently, Garnett got down on all fours to taunt then-rookie Jerryd Bayless, and has been suspended for a game for hitting Andrew Bogut in the head. He's also taunted just about everyone he's gone up against.
In fact, Garnett's long been known as arguably the best the NBA has seen in decades. He's been an intimidator -- due to his natural abilities and also his mouth.
"That's their M.O.," Beasley said. "They talk the whole game."
"He talks more than anyone else in the league," Miami guard Mario Chalmers added of Garnett.
But Garnett is no longer nearly as intimidating because his surgically repaired knee, and his age, have caught up with him.
He's no longer an All-Star caliber player, but the Celtics still desperately need him to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals and a possible date with LeBron James and the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, they may not have his services Tuesday night for Game 2.
Garnett was tossed from the game after getting hit with a pair of technical fouls after the incident and could be suspended pending review by the league.
"It is what it is," Garnett said. "You made your bed and you lie in it."
Luckily for the Celtics, they will go into Game 2 -- with or without Garnett -- with a 1-0 lead after coming back from a 14-point third quarter deficit to beat Miami, 85-76.
This is a Boston team that had been written off, tossed into a nursing home due to their aging superstars and mediocre record after the first 28 games of the season.
The Celtics had blown more late leads recently than Brad Lidge, but this time they dug themselves out of a hefty deficit and showed they aren't quite ready to be buried.
Sure, it was just Miami -- but it was a red-hot Heat team that finished the regular season winning 12 of its last 13 games.
It was also a Boston team that has gone 27-27 in its last 54 games.
There are plenty that figured Miami would come into Boston and Wade would flat-out dominate Boston's Aging Three.
But didn't happen.
"I don't think anyone counted them out," Beasley said. "They are a veteran team that won 50 games. Anyone who wins 50 games, regardless of age, can't be counted out."
It's not as though the Celtics flipped a switch and decided to turn it on. They didn't exactly play stellar basketball on Saturday night, but there were enough defensive stops -- combined with Miami misses -- to take an early lead in the series.
"This was important" Pierce said, "Because it set the tone for the series."
Garnett set a tone as well.
It just doesn't mean quite as much these days.