Last time Kevin Garnett was at the O2 Arena in London the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves met in a 2007 pre-season game that was scheduled with the intention of merely helping grow the NBA brand overseas.
But two trades prior to the Boston-Minnesota meeting changed the importance of the trip; From initially being nothing more than a PR exercise for the Celtics, the trip to the capital became an opportunity to form relationships with new team-mates, a position Kevin Garnett finds himself in again with his current Brooklyn Nets team.
Following the high profile acquisitions of a pair of Olympic medallists, former NBA Champions Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Kevin Garnett, along with a new head coach in Jason Kidd, the 2013/14 Nets have struggled to meet the weight of expectation placed upon. And while there is no doubt that injuries have played a part in Brooklyn’s difficulties, chemistry too, has slowed the process as players get to grips with a new system and new personalities.
A mid-season trip across the Atlantic could be viewed by some as nothing more than a distraction but for Kevin Garnett, the importance of the trip is not lost.
“Continuity was a big factor, we were trying to get to know each other,” the 19-year NBA veteran said of his first season with the Boston Celtics. “Those (pre-season trips) were the early stages of building for us. Those two games probably played a big role in our connection with each other, two very fun games, two memorable games in a very memorable year,”
Boston’s visit to London gave the team a chance to become comfortable with one another away from the court, an opportunity the Celts took full advantage of as they discovered the meaning of togetherness and adopted the phrase ‘Ubuntu’ – a saying which derives from the African Bantu language and stresses collective success over individual achievements. That season, with a brotherhood-type bond and an unwavering focus, the Boston Celtics claimed their first NBA title in over two decades, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2.
Garnett knows where the foundation for that success began and he’s hopeful his current visit to UK shores will once again be the catalyst that his team need to ignite their season.
“I think it’s fair to say that those two games catapulted our success that season. I hope it can be the same with the Nets!”
The Brooklyn Nets take on the Atlanta Hawks at the O2 Arena tonight as part of NBA Global Games London 2014. Watch the game live on BT Sport 1 from 7.45pm.
Images: Keith Firmin & NBAE/Getty Images