Image copyright: OfficialTeams.com
NBA legend Kevin Garnett opened up about his TNT show Area 21, whether he has any coaching aspirations and the best parts of All-Star weekend. He recently spoke with USA TODAY Sports.
JZ: How did Area 21 come about?
KG: Area 21 was basically a concept off of man cave, if you will. It’s a spinoff a bit of me and my friends sitting back watching TV, critiquing the game in a relaxed environment and just talking sports. Being guys. Being able to have the ability to express yourself and in an even manner. Then we started putting bits and pieces on it with the cuss button, then the hoodies and dressing a certain way. Just bringing a different style to TV.
JZ: How often was there a version of Area 21 at your place before it was on TNT?
KG: I actually do this with my guys but probably a lot more hysterical, a lot more animated in our personal space. I’d say Area 21 is a more professional, watered-down version of the original.
JZ: We’re going to have to get some outtakes from these gatherings.
KG: That’s like a live-stream waiting to come, right.
JZ: What appeals to you about doing this show?
KG: Probably the most appealing to me – the common interest with Turner was more of a critiquing and have people hear how I see the game. They were interested in having more people knowledgeable about the game. Turner has high-IQ players who were really basketball players. To join this team at Turner was more of a complement. But they wanted someone to critique the game from another perspective and giving your two cents about the culture of the game, players and I think they wanted to have a player and a staff who had experience. With that, just have a good time, mix that with some good vibes, man you have a dope show.
JZ: Did you know what you wanted to do post-NBA?
KG: I don’t think so. I don’t think every player knows. I think they have an idea. I think you try to create some direction for yourself coming out of playing. But the first thing you want to do is just do nothing to be honest. Every player will tell you they want to sit back and just be off their feet, kick back and just relax a little bit. But as the opportunities come, you take advantage of them. You still have to go forward and progress and be a businessman and be a family man and all the other things you aspire to be, and I’m no different. I had no idea what I wanted to do coming out of retirement.
JZ: There was some thought among some reporters that if there was going to be a player who faded from the spotlight, did his own thing and really wasn’t heard from, it may be you. Was that a thought for you?
KG: I was totally with that. I’m not going to lie. Fading into the shadows was cool with me. I have no problem with that. But when opportunity comes, you feel like some things are a duty. Me having this show, I have a duty to critique and teach. With that, comes responsibility. I have an understanding of what’s going on now. I do my research. I do my studying and update myself with what’s going on, and when I work with these players on my own, I actually try to give knowledge and pass it down. It all goes together at the end of the day. There’s always makings for something different. That’s what you see on TV, that’s all.
JZ: I was in Milwaukee in November and walked into practice facility before practice and you were on the court with Giannis Antetokounmpo. What do you like about working with players?
KG: When I first came into the league, the biggest thing I wanted to do was learn and learn from quality players and people and people who wanted to teach. Kevin McHale and Sam Mitchell were great mentors to me early on. That was the kind of person I wanted to be in retirement and being able to be accessible to some of these players especially the ones I have direct relationships and connections. It really wasn’t about the bread. It was more about the opportunity to work with some of these bigs. I’m going to make a business and call myself Master of the Post. I’m going to go ahead and grab that.
When you meet a lot of these young players, you see a part of yourself in some of these players. Giannis has a presence about himself and a dominance, and when I played, I didn’t necessarily recognize it. But when I stepped back and saw his appetite, it reminded me of myself and players I played against and with. That’s a rarity these days – players having an appetite and looking to other players to get better. I saw a little bit of myself in him.
JZ: Do you have coaching aspirations, say with a team, or do you like to freelance and go where you want?
KG: I wish it was a freer market than that, but I totally understand. But I like being free. I like being able to work with multiple teams. That’s not the case. The league changed their rules a little bit. But from a mentoring aspect, you can mentor as many players as you want. As far as team, you have to stick with one team. I would never say never to anything, but I don’t have an appetite to coach. I’m more of a teacher than a coach. A coach has a lot more responsibility. I just want to teach the players, and that’s it. I don’t want to organize who gets what playing time. I definitely don’t want that.
JZ: What other players do you work with?
KG: Last year, I had the opportunity to work with the Clippers and Bucks. I got to work with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan along with Giannis and Thon (Maker) and (Khris) Middleton. I also got to work with The Process Embiid in Philadelphia. Karl-Anthony Towns and I have worked together and shared information. I haven’t worked with KAT in a while, two or three years, but we always talk basketball. If I could, my dream would be to work with all the future bigs in the league.
JZ: How much NBA do you watch?
KG: On a 1-10 scale, I’m probably an eight or seven. A lot of time I’m traveling. I live in L.A., and if you want to catch a 7 o’clock game Eastern, you’ve got to be there at 4 o’clock. In California at four o’clock, the sun is probably just gleaming perfect, and you’re doing three, four other things. I catch as much as I can. I’ve caught more games this year than last year. I’m making it a purpose to catch up. I’m entertained. I’m enjoying the matchups. I’m enjoying all the storylines. I’m following like everybody else. I’m enjoying the league this year. There’s lots going on to keep your interest.
JZ: What do you enjoy about the NBA this season? What are your favorite storyline?
KG: I love the matchups. I love the constant competitiveness of the guys. Cleveland’s interesting and what’s really going on there. Everybody’s watching that. I’m watching the inconsistency of some of the teams. I think some guys are ready for All-Star break. But more importantly, just trying to read between the lines. Is there really something there, or is it just fluff? I’m just trying to see what theories stick. I love night in, night out. I love Embiid challenging all the bigs. I was loving Cousins play this year. Sad to see him go down like that. I love the new process of the All-Star Game and how they got it more stimulated now with the way they picked teams. It’s almost like a park feel. The T’Wolves getting better. Can Boston hold on to that No. 1? I’m watching it all man.
JZ: Is there anything you don’t like about the league?
KG: As a former player, you want to see guys play a lot more. I see guys taking a lot more rest, taking time off. The culture of the league is that we play every night, and the ones that do it every night I respect – not that I don’t respect the ones who do. The ones who push through and play through pain, that’s the culture of sports. You grind through and you do it the right way.
I was ex-players could work with more current players to exchange knowledge and information. There’s nothing I don’t dislike. The league has so many great narratives. I’m totally in it. I just wish we had a mentoring system where some of the younger players could feed off some of the older players that were successful. That exchange is needed. The league is growing. Our players are great – the things they’re able to do now. What the what? The transformation of the game is doing in a direction I’m pleased with. I’m just a fan. I love our players innovating our game, which is how it’s supposed to be.
JZ: When you played, what did you enjoy about All-Star Weekend?
KG: I enjoyed being a kid at All-Star. Anybody who knows me knows I’m super competitive and All-Star was a chance for to – not totally let go – but relax a little bit and get to know the guys on a personal level. You’re so guarded and everybody is trying to keeping their edge. I was able to mingle and be competitive and crack jokes and have fun. I watched how Gary Payton was able to go from being a great guy in the locker room and having everybody laughing and go straight cutthroat and go killer. I found that balance. I watched how G did that. I watched how (Michael) Jordan did that. I watched how Charles (Barkley) did that. The greats always had a capability to have two sides. Everybody has a nice guy, a good personable person in them. First off, people are good people. And then you’ve got that animal, that dark place that everybody goes to and that’s a whole ’nother beast. When I was able to understand that, I was able to control both sides, and I was a lot more comfortable being myself around the guys and opening up with stories and having fun the night before. When you go out and party, you party together. That’s what it is. You worked so hard and you kick each other’s ass so much, there should be one time where we can relax and have festivities and eat and chill together. That’s how it’s supposed.
Image copyright: Usa today
JZ: What does Area 21 have planned for All-Star weekend?
KG: But we are doing some different things and gathering some different content with the city of L.A. We got some dope things coming on and some things you probably wouldn’t guess that you would see on our show. It’s going to be over the top a little bit. So stay tuned.
JZ: Do you consider yourself part of the media now?
KG: I’m a chameleon man. I’m going to tell you I have a business in that if I see an opportunity to be able to take advantage, I will. I’m understanding the business more. I’m also under the understanding that I have a platform to say real (expletive) and get things out and have a voice, have a presence. I like to say I am media. But the brotherhood weighs, if that makes sense. I’m not going to give up things that go on in our game and our culture for something that would benefit me in telling stories. I’m not that. I would never do that. That’s party of the fraternity you come from. I am part of the media, but I have my borders and I have my things I stay true to.