Wizards look to rebound against Garnett, Celtics

Wizards look to rebound against Garnett, Celtics
November 2, 2012, 4:30 pm
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Boston's Kevin Garnett reaches to contend a layup by Jordan Crawford of the Wizards. (AP)

Anderson Varejao's game is typically more subtle than highlight generating. The center's value stems more from rebounding and heady play than direct point producing. Perhaps also being lumped in with that "LeBron James has no talent around him" era has kept the Cavaliers primary big man in the underrated category.

Oh, those around the league know what Varejao brings to the court. Yet his lack of perennial All-Star street cred made his 23 rebounds and role in Cleveland's dominating effort on the glass against Washington in the season opener something of a stunner.

Nobody overlooks Kevin Garnett. The future Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics stalwart is the next interior presence the Wizards must contend with, starting Saturday night in Washington's home opener and again Wednesday in Boston.

"KG, he's a league MVP, a champion, brings a lot of experience," Wizards center Emeka Okafor said. "He knows how to play the game. With him, you just have to keep your eye on him, limit his effectiveness."

Regardless of the next opponent, the Wizards know they cannot have a repeat of their board work, especially the first three quarters, of the94-84 loss at Cleveland.

"Obviously, we’ve got to rebound the ball better than we did in Cleveland - and we’ve got to make sure that happens," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said following Friday's practice.

Being on the wrong end of a 54-39 rebounding total against Cleveland not only allowed the Cavs to score a truckload of second-chance points, it also prevented the Wizards from getting out on the fast break. Without John Wall, Nene, and Kevin Seraphin, Washington struggled to score in half court sets.

"We’ve got to have good pace of the game. I thought our pace was up and down in Cleveland," Wittman said. "When it was up, we were pretty good. When we walked the ball up and played five on five, it was a little hard, especially with the injuries we have. We’ve got to make sure we keep pace of the game, take care of the ball and rebound."

The frontcourt should receive a boost Saturday with Seraphin's expected return. The third-year center, out since Oct. 13 after injuring his calf during a preseason game, practiced for a second straight day on Friday.

Last season's Celtics ranked last in rebounding and Garnett averaged under seven boards in four games against Washington. Don't count on Wittman emphasizing those stats.

Garnett kicked off his 18th season by yanking down 12 boards in Boston's season opening loss at Miami. For the most part in this case, age is just a number.

"As you get older in this league, you learn how to be just more effective," said the 30-year-old Okafor, who has battled against Garnett many times over his nine-year career. "I was watching Tim Duncan last night. He's 36, 37 and he's just getting it in. Just shows if you know what you're doing you can do it."

One area about Garnett that Wittman might emphasize to his bevy of young players? That the 14-time All-Star is still cranking out strong campaigns despite all the wear and tear that comes with playing aggressively in the trenches.

"He’s been a pretty lucky guy from an injury standpoint, to withstand the years he’s played, the way he plays," Wittman said of Garnett. "That’s one thing people don’t realize. He plays as hard as anybody and to not have serious injuries, because of the way he plays through whatever it is, 17 years, is remarkable.

"But that’s a testament to him. He’s a guy that, this is a 12-month a year job for him and he takes care of his body. Takes care of himself. Always has. One of those guys, you never see him in trouble or hear stories about him off the floor and that’s just who is and why he’s had the success he’s had."

Well, you do hear some on-court stories about Garnett, frequently mentioned in the context of the league's "dirtiest player."

Said Okafor, "Whatever he does it works."