The second half of this NBA season has been special for the Boston Celtics – they have played outstanding basketball despite all of the adversity thrown their way. We’ve seen the emergence of Avery Bradley, and have marveled at the excellence of Rajon Rondo. We’ve witnessed the rebirth of Paul Pierce, an aging superstar who started the season looking like he was washed up, but who is ending it looking like one of the best players in the league. Brandon Bass has made us forget all about Big Baby. We’ve grown to appreciate the player that is Greg Stiemsma, the valuable role player no one saw coming.
And then there is Kevin Garnett. Who would have thought that KG would not only accept a move to the center position, but that he would experience a renaissance that usually doesn’t happen with players that old or with that many NBA miles on the treads. As we approach these 2012 NBA Playoffs, these Celtics almost have the feel of a college team about to enter the NCAA Tournament. Sure, it’s not one and done, but you still get the sense that there is a finality involved, and that when this ride ends it may mean the end of Kevin Garnett in a Celtics uniform. He’s our senior player on this make-believe college team, the guy whose career ends when this run ends. And because of this fact, there is that finality to it that’s certainly bittersweet. KG is the guy came to Boston, subjugated his game for the greater good of the team, and who made us believe that anything is possible. And if not for some bad luck in terms of injury, first to KG and then to Kendrick Perkins, we might have added two more banners to the rafters.
KG changed the culture. Like Larry Bird before him, the Big Ticket arrived in Boston and led by example. He came in and did his talking on the court – offseason workouts, training camp, practices, games. He showed the rest of the team that defense mattered most, that there was no room for ego, that he didn’t care how many minutes or shots he got as long as it meant a win. KG, in short, was the leader this team lacked.
That’s not a knock on Paul Pierce. Pierce leads in his own way, but Garnett accepts no less than excellence and commitment from himself and his teammates. And he’s not afraid to share his feelings with the players who don’t buy in to the Celtic Way.
All of which brings us to where we are now – one playoff run away from the Great Unknown. Will Kevin Garnett be through as a Boston Celtic when the season ends? There are so many factors involved that it’s impossible to call at this point, but it’s hard not to think about it from time-to-time. And when the season ends, it’s a subject that will be hard to ignore. If Danny Ainge chooses to go in another direction no one can really blame him. Garnett will be another year older, and at some point he will no longer be an elite player. Dollars, contact length and playing time will be the new Big Three when it comes to weighing a KG return to the Celtics.
If Garnett walks, will he retire or will he continue his quest with another contender? You can bet the Heat, Bulls and Lakers would be at the top of his wish list, and you can bet that all three teams would do whatever it takes to convince KG to play two more seasons in search of another title or two. But which team would make the most sense? The Lakers have Bynum and Gasol, so KG would be a role player in L.A. Miami and Chicago are different stories, especially since Garnett has proven he can be effective at the center position. In Miami you could see him starting with the Big Three. In Chicago he would reunite with his defensive zen-master, Coach T.
I, for one, hope it doesn’t come to that. I want two more years with Garnett in a Celtics uniform. I want him to be willing to come back for less dollars and a lesser role, regardless of whether the Celtics are legit contenders for an NBA crown.
It will eventually come down to a meeting of the minds and the hearts, assuming Danny Ainge wants to pursue KG at all. I hope he does. And I hope Garnett is loyal to the Celtics organization if that’s the case, because this Celtics run has been really nice for him. Jumping to a third team isn’t something many fans would want to see. I know that counts for nothing, because this is a business and dollars have a persuasiveness that trumps loyalty in the end.
For now I’m just going to enjoy this run, and hope that our undermanned Boston Celtics can shock the world.
And when it’s over, the KG Watch begins.