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Kevin Garnett loses cool as Nets drop sixth straight

Garnett Suspended After Head-Butting Howard at Barclays Center

January 13, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Kevin Garnett got suspended for head-butting Dwight Howard during the Nets’ sixth straight loss Monday night at Downtown’sBarclays Center. Photo by the Associated Press
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Kevin Garnett earned himself a one-game suspension and $15,000 fine Monday night at Downtown Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

The way the Nets have been playing in the New Year, he may want a few more games off.

The 38-year-old future Hall of Famer got into a heated verbal exchange that turned physical with Houston center Dwight Howard during the first quarter of the Nets’ season-high sixth consecutive defeat, a 113-99 setback to the high-powered Rockets before a crowd of 16,115. 

Garnett, a veteran of 20 NBA seasons known for his penchant for ticking off opponents with his ultra-competitive and combative nature, fired a basketball off Howard’s shoulder, then head-butted the 6-foot-11 pivot man before receiving a roundhouse open-hand slap to the face in return. 

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Referees slapped Howard back with a technical and ejected Garnett, who didn’t speak with reporters following the contest.

Howard had very little to say regarding the incident, which resulted in him being fined $15,000. 

“As long as we win the game, that’s all that matters,” Howard noted after his team improved to 27-11 while dropping the slumping Nets to 16-22.

“I’m frustrated,” Nets first-year head coach Lionel Hollins admitted after Brooklyn turned the ball over 16 times and was outscored by a whopping 48-15 from 3-point range. “If I’m frustrated, I’m sure [the players] are.” 

Garnett certainly displayed his frustration on the floor, but it was the rest of the Nets who failed to respond to the impromptu tantrum by their fearless floor leader, remaining winless since reaching the .500 mark with a 100-98 victory in Orlando on Jan. 2. 

”Kevin did a lot for us, [he] got us going,” Mason Plumlee said of Garnett after leading Brooklyn with 24 points and 10 rebounds. ”Those are the kind of games as a team you want to win, and we didn’t do that.”

The Nets haven’t done much winning under any circumstance in 2015, and Hollins revealed the reason why during his pregame media conference Monday evening. 

”We have established an identity. We don’t make shots. That is an identity,” Hollins said with his usual dry candor.

The numbers back up the coach’s assessment as Brooklyn ranks 25th in the league in both points per game and 3-point shooting percentage entering Wednesday night’s tilt with the visiting Memphis Grizzlies. 

”We have guys who have been great shooters or good shooters throughout their careers wherever they’ve played and I don’t know, maybe I’m the problem,” Hollins added. 

”I don’t shoot them, but I’m sure that behind closed doors without the microphone on some players may say that I’m the problem that they can’t shoot.”

Jarrett Jack, filling in for still-injured $98 million point guard Deron Williams, scored 13 points and handed out six assists for the Nets, who currently hold a very tenuous 1 1/2-game lead over Charlotte and Indiana for Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. 

Joe Johnson, doubtlessly one of the “great shooters” Hollins was referring to, finished 4-for-13 from the floor for 12 points as Brooklyn shot a collective 5-of-21 from beyond the arc, a figure actually buoyed by his own 3-of-8 long-range effort.

In the midst of the most challenging portion of their schedule – all but three of Brooklyn’s next 15 opponents currently hold playoff spots – the Nets must find a way to right what is quickly taking on the characteristics of a sinking ship. 

Prior to his latest injury, Williams was being used off the bench behind Jack and former All-Star center Brook Lopez has also been primarily functioning as a reserve behind Plumlee since returning from his own injury woes.

Hollins’ no-nonsense approach hasn’t exactly been rubbing off well on his two biggest stars, nor does it appear likely that Jack and Plumlee can elevate the Nets to the next level in their bigger roles. 

That leaves Hollins to find a way to get the Nets back into the playoffs for a third straight season since their relocation to our fair borough without maximum production from Brooklyn’s so-called franchise players. 

It also might put thus-far untouchable general manager Billy King on the hook if the organization is forced to fire Hollins and hire its fourth new coach in just over two calendar years. 

At some point, the Nets’ failure to launch thus far this season has to be blamed on the players and the man who picked them.

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