After 22 years carving out a legendary career, Kevin Garnett retired from the NBA in 2016.
However, he wasn’t away from basketball for long. At the start of the 2016-17 NBA season, TNT announced that Garnett would have his own show to go with “Inside the NBA” titled “Area 21” in which he’d discuss games and current events in the league with guests.
Garnett the analyst hasn’t been entirely different from Garnett the player — he’s energetic, talkative, and fiery, seldom holding back his feelings about other players and teams. He’s also proven to be funny and engaging while talking with former players like Rasheed Wallace, Gary Payton, and Kevin McHale, and NFL players like Randy Moss, Ray Lewis, and Larry Fitzgerald. In turn, “Area 21” has become a fan-favorite, as viewers have gotten to see a more light-hearted, entertaining version of Garnett than the versatile, defensive menace that helped change the league.
Garnett spoke to Business Insider about his work on “Area 21,” adjusting to life without basketball, his desire (or lack thereof) to teach other NBA players, and his thoughts on the NBA playoffs and finals.
Scott Davis: What’s been the biggest adjustment for you as an analyst?
Kevin Garnett: “The language. Right away [laughs]. The way I communicate. Obviously, there’s been some adjustments … When I’m telling games, I have to be very, very neutral, as much as I can be. I try to be a very true and real perspective. But at the same time, try to teach and pull up the points in which I feel are most valuable to our game and teach them in hopes that people can continue to love our game.”
Davis: You always have a lot of energy on the show and seem fired up. Do you have a pre-TV routine in the way you had a pregame routine?
Garnett: “I just like to bring a certain amount of [energy] to whatever it is I’m doing. I like to be a source of — there’s people coming in from their day, people coming in checking out the games … I know when I’m in my man cave at my home, I’m relaxing out with my friends, so I’m considering if you’re at home, you want some energy, you don’t want me to be laid back. So, if I’m teaching you something and trying to hold your attention for as many hours as I’m doing it, you need me to be energetic.”
Davis: In a recent interview with AP News, you said it’s been a tough adjustment retiring and going from playing and having a routine to suddenly not having any of that. Is there a way you look to burn off energy now, or have you picked up any hobbies to keep you occupied?
Garnett: “Yeah, it’s called, running your business is my hobby now [laughs]. I still get in the gym, I still find ways to work out, work out Monday through Friday, get different runs in, I do jogs, I swim a lot now. Things that are easy on the joints. I’m not conditioning for 82 games-plus season, I’m not stopping and going, I’m not exploding through. But it’s maintained. You don’t do something for 20-plus years and just stop.
“It’s crazy. Shouts to my dawg, Paul [Pierce], who had an unbelievable career, happy to be able to call him a brother. We were just talking about, one of the things he asked me was, ‘What you do everyday?’ When you first come out, it’s transition. You gotta find your routine, days you don’t feel like doing it, you don’t have to do it. But you know, it’s in you. I like to think anyone wants to look good, I’m no different from that. More importantly, I wanna be healthy enough to run with my kids. To be out here training these guys, you gotta be in shape. I’m up here doing some of this consultant work. And a lot of these guys are going, it’s not believable if you’re not in shape or if you’re not able to go out here and articulate and show them.
“But if anybody knows me, knows that I’m a workhorse, not just on the floor, but psychologically. I meditate a lot, I like to get massages, do yoga. I like to keep a balance.”
Davis: What does your business entail?
Garnett: “My Garnett Group stuff. Stuff with tech, stuff where it’s medical, stuff where it’s wellness, production. ‘Area 21’ was something along with Turner, we partnered up and came up with a great idea. Got me thinking about production now. Starting a production company and putting out some small projects that have been impactful, things that have a message. I want to at some point get a couple series on Netflix. So, I’m working on some things, but that’s my everyday stuff I work on on top of making my show better weekly. And just bringing new flavors and ideas to the whole team.”
Davis: You mentioned your consultant work with the Clippers. They obviously just lost Game 7 to the Jazz and got eliminated from the playoffs. Why do you think this team can’t get over the hump in the postseason?
Garnett: “I don’t know. It’s psychologically. I’ve been in Minnesota, where we played I think eight straight years and never got out of the first round, so I totally understand. And I can understand from that perspective. In my walks of life, I’ve also understood that it takes more than one person to think of achieving a goal, and it takes more than one or two players, to get you out of the position you’re in. I don’t know, I’m not a president or anything like that, but if I was Doc Rivers, I would look to improve the team and go away from what’s been the norm. And as long as you can look at it and say you thought you going in the right direction and it’s for the betterment, good character and players who care about the game, who are gonna give everything, then you feel good about that. But I feel like in basketball, anyone who can make the proper adjustments to anything, it can be Doc Rivers. I feel confident in his decision-making in making that a better team.
Davis: Would you run it back and re-sign free agents like Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and J.J. Redick?
Garnett: “I don’t know their preference in what they’re talking about as far as going forward, but Chris Paul is great. They have really good pieces there. If they can add on, make some key adjustments to whatever they see as key, I think they can be possibly a better team. The Clippers are not far-fetched, they’ve been together six years, they got a nucleus. If they can add onto that, put a [Carmelo Anthony], put, I think Paul Millsap is up, Paul George… There’s a lot of different things in which you can look to and put pieces to make your team better that are out there this summer that I anticipate them looking at.”
Davis: What teams have impressed you this postseason?
Garnett: “Washington. The Wizards stand out right away as a team to be reckoned with. They play with a lot of poise. John Wall looks to be ready to take control. He’s giving his MVP candidacy to the world, if you will, and he’s just playing beautiful basketball … They have a little swag and a little lit-ness. I love that, I love it.
“The one I’m looking forward to, though, like everybody, is the Wizards and Celtics. It’s just the one that everybody’s kinda been, you know, they’ve got history. Golden State and Portland, I was excited about the guard play in that. This is the same thing. I’m looking forward to the back-court going at it and looking at them. The guard play in that whole thing with everybody saying that Golden State’s got the best 1-2, then Portland’s got the best 1-2. This is the East Coast version of that. So, I’m looking forward to this series.”
Davis: J.J. Redick shared a funny anecdote about you on Bill Simmons’ podcast, saying you told him he should charge players to learn his tricks for getting open and shooting. So, here’s a two-parter: what skill would you charge other players to learn from you, and what other players around the league could charge to teach people their skills?
Garnett: “Well, it’d be something I’d like to sit down and see what I would be able to bring to somebody. I don’t have the appetite to go out and teach on a huge scale. I do have an appetite to be able to help players that are looking to be better in our league and I could actually show something that I think could be valid for their own personal gain. Younger players I tend to focus on because they are not peaked-out yet, and they still have room to improve and add things to their games. Some guys are comfortable in their own skin to do certain things and that’s just what they’re gonna be. At the end of the day with me, it’s appetite.
“The second part of your question, guys like J.J. Redick, guys like Paul Pierce, guys who have — guys like Klay Thompson — an ability to, I think, players wanna learn from, if not understand. J.J. Redick is a very, very rare player who moves a lot, a lot of movement, he’s predicated off coming off screens, doesn’t have to do a lot off the dribble. He has a black-and-white game to where he can give some insight to some of these young players coming in. I know some of the new guys coming in are similar, if not similar players… Imagine if he was able to get players that are up-and-coming like that some tools where they could define, if not have good starting tools to kinda start their [careers] with.
“Yeah, he could make some easy money in the summer. Plus, he’s gonna work out anyway. What the hell? Make some guys pay to come in and learn under you and you start your own camp and you start your own thing. So, I put the idea in his head to kinda think about himself and incorporating himself in his craft and what he does, and obviously, he took to heart some of it.”
Davis: If you were coming into the NBA today, do you think you’d be a small-ball 5, shooting threes and spacing the floor?
Garnett: “That’s where it’s all going. When I came in, I played the three because I just wasn’t strong enough to play the four at the time. So, coming in here now, it’s not about brute strength and all that, it’s about ability and potential. When you look at lot of the young players that we love, Thon Maker, Karl-Anthony Towns, [Joel] Embiid, [Kristaps] Porzingis, they have good bones. What I mean by that, they have good boundaries of where you can start off with. Lengthy players, have outside touch, high IQ and understanding, good lateral quickness and movement, good footwork. Between all four of those guys, you can have kind of a good bear to teach. And when it comes to ability, whether they’re picking up the moves and the counters and whatever you’re showing them is another thing. So, those are the things you gotta take into account when assessing these young groups.
“So, if I’m coming in and these guys are similar if not parallel body types. My whole game was being agile, putting the ball on the floor, making counters, making plays for others, being point forward, being able to play the other side of the ball, play multiple positions, be able to guard multiple positions. Yeah, I probably would.”
Davis: This was a debate making news the other day: Is Draymond Green the modern day Charles Barkley? He said he’s not.
Garnett: “I think Draymond is a person who is very predicated to what he says. He’s articulate. He does his homework. I like to think he’s knowledgeable about whatever he’s speaking on, he backs it up with facts. And he has a platform. Not only that, but he’s a very good player. He’s an unselfish player. It takes a lot of him to make that thing, to me, go in Golden State. When they need to run, when they need energy, when they need certain type of guidance, he’s the person to forget about himself and put the team first. To me, he’s a true leader.
“I think he’s different from Charles. Charles was a player who spoke his mind, but was a little more individual. A lot more to himself. Charles was a little more combative than Draymond. But both are worthiness in the same breath. Charles is obviously a great, and Draymond, he’s still making his greatness and writing his whole thing, but I definitely see the parallels.
Davis: Lastly, your Finals prediction?
Garnett: “I think what everybody wants, man — Cleveland-Golden State.
Davis: Who do you have winning?
Garnett: “I’m never gonna go against [Cavs coach Tyronn] Lue. I’m Lue all day and I’m being biased because that’s one of my best friends. But if I’m speaking as an analyst, I just wanna see a great series. I’m also friends with [Warriors guard] Shaun Livingston, so I got kind of a, I’m in the middle. All in all, as an ex-player just watching basketball, I just wanna see a really good, hard-fought Finals. May the best team come out.”