“This is definitely my last All Star Game.” The words no true basketball fan ever wanted to hear but, at the same time, knew were inevitable. These are the words of Kevin Garnett, one of the greatest to ever play the game.
After tonight’s win over the Chicago Bulls, the Celtics big man spoke with reporters per usual. In a small back and forth with one reporter, KG was asked if this year’s All Star Game would be his last. After confirming that it would be, Garnett was asked why he thought that if he still had two years remaining on his contract with the team. “Ya’ll don’t know what I know,” he said in a matter of fact fashion.
Since hearing those comments, I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that this will most likely be Garnett’s last year playing professional basketball. However, I can’t say that this is the first time I’ve had these thoughts throughout the course of the 2012-13 NBA campaign. Actually, the first time the notion came to mind was when Rajon Rondo was told that he would be out for the remainder of the season due to an ACL tear. Without their star point guard, the Celtics looked like they would be in some serious trouble. You can’t simply replace what Rondo brings to the team. He may not be the best scorer in the league, but in my opinion, he is the best passer. Rondo has mastered the art of creating for his teammates and using any means necessary to get the ball to the open man. Without him, who would the Celtics hand the reigns to as the facilitator of their offense? Most importantly, Rondo is one of just three players who played for the 2008 championship squad. The other two obviously being Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. In saying that, I mean that he’s been there before and he knows what it takes to have playoff success. I heard about the injury and thought about it for a while. Maybe playing point guard by committee wouldn’t be SO bad. I decided to see how the C’s would fare without him. It’s not like things could get any worse, right?
Wrong. The next game on the schedule had the Celtics slated to take on the Miami Heat at the TD Garden. Just a few minutes into play, rookie Jared Sullinger hobbled off the court and directly into the locker room. The initial report was that he was having “back spasms.” Although that was true, when he was further examined, doctors told him that he would need to have surgery to repair a herniated disk. This injury was no stranger to Sullinger, who had seen his draft stock negatively effected because of his poor back history. To throw salt in the gaping wound caused by the Rondo injury, Sullinger was also told that he would miss the rest of the season as well.
In just a matter of days, the Celtics lost both their floor general, who just happened to be leading the league in assists with 11.1, and their second leading rebounder in Sullinger who was averaging roughly 6 boards per game. The men in green found themselves in a very tough position.
Wait a minute though, the Celtics went on to knock off the Heat in a game that required extra sessions, making them 1-0 as a Rondo-less group. It would turn out that the win would give them a pretty good deal of confidence. The team ripped off six straight wins following that contest putting them at 7-0 without Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger. At this point, fans and analysts alike were starting to wonder if the Celtics were actually a better team without Rondo. I hate to break it to you though, that’s just simply not the case. When you put on a Celtics uniform, you’re expected to buy into the brotherhood and feel the pride that had run through players before them for decades. The team came together and decided that they would fight as hard as they could for their guys that couldn’t be out there with them.
Next up on the docket: the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. Boston was visibly tired and the Bobcats were running them out of the gym in transition but the game remained close. Then, after hiding for about a week and a half, the injury bug decided to make an appearance. Combo guard Leandro Barbosa caught the ball in the post, pivoted, and dished the ball back out to the top of the key. Following the pass, Barbosa fell to the floor grabbing his knee. He would have to be carried off the court to the locker room where he couldn’t put even the slightest bit of weight on it. It was reported the next morning that the veteran had torn his ACL and suffered damage to his MCL, and would be out for the season. This is when I really started thinking about KG’s future.
With all this said, at 36 years old, Kevin Garnett doesn’t have time to be messing around waiting for his teammates to get healthy again. He also doesn’t have time playing for a team that can’t give him a great chance to make a run at the title. Historically, the Celtics have been known for making a run after the All Star break, as we saw last year year when the team came within one game of the NBA Finals after they had headed into the break under .500. Unfortunately, I see the team making the playoffs but I can’t imagine them making a lot of noise in the post season. The problem is that the Celtics don’t have any interesting trade chips which means they’ll probably have to fill roster spots via free agency. I don’t see anybody in the free agency pool that can come in right away and get this team over the hump. With teams like the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, and the Indiana Pacers also competing in the Eastern Conference, I don’t think the Celtics can roll through all of those teams on the way to an NBA Finals. On the off chance they did make the Finals, the chances of them taking down an opponent like the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, or Los Angeles Clippers are slim to none. They just don’t have the pieces or the youth to get such a tall task done.
As we all know, KG won’t leave the Celtics through a trade. First of all, he’s too loyal and he would never leave the squad in their helpless state. Garnett has also said on multiple occasions that he won’t play for anybody but Doc Rivers for the rest of his career. Perhaps the most convincing reason why he won’t be traded is because he has the benefit of the oh so rare no-trade clause on his side. He is currently one of four players in the entire league that has such a clause in his contract. In fact, the only way that KG would accept a trade would be if Paul Pierce were to be traded first.
Both Paul and Kevin have made it clear that they want to retire as members of the Boston Celtics. In this article by ESPNBoston’s, Chris Forsberg, he quotes KG as saying, “…I bleed green and I continue to do that. And if it’s up to me then I’m going to retire a Celtic.”In this video, Paul Pierce is doing an interview with WEEI during practice. Pierce goes on to say, “I want to retire as a Celtic. That’s been my longtime goal, but it’s not under my control. The organization, they make their decisions, but it’s something I’ve desired since being here so long.”
In my opinion, this is a great thing to see, especially in today’s NBA where players change teams all the time. However, it’s a frightening thing to me as well. If this truly is Kevin Garnett’s last season then that means it could be Paul Pierce’s last as well.
Sure, they might not go out on top but as much as they love the game, their tired and battle tested bodies just might not have enough left to go through a possible rebuild next year. They won a ring together, something that was so elusive for a long period of time. Whether it was KG’s days in Minnesota or Paul’s early days with the Celtics, I think they both may have thought it just wasn’t supposed to happen for them. After going through years and years of being super stars on bad teams, these two future Hall of Famers got it done together.
Being the proud owner of a championship ring is the tip of what has been a mountainous career for Kevin Garnett. The man has done more in 17 seasons than most players dream about.
Accolades that include:
- NBA MVP (2004)
- 15 time NBA All Star (1997-98, 2000-11, 2013)
- All Star Game MVP (2003)
- NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2008)
- 4 time All-NBA First Team (2000, 2003-04, 2008)
- 3 time All-NBA Second Team (2001-02, 2005)
- 2 time All-NBA Third Team (1999, 2007)
- 9 time NBA All-Defensive First Team (2000-05, 2008-09, 2011)
- 3 time NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2006-07, 2012)
- NBA All-Rookie Second Team (1996)
- 4 time NBA Rebounding Champion (2004-07)
- J. Walter Kennedy Citizen Ship Award (2006)
Not to mention his career averages of 19.2 PPG and 10.5 RPG.
The bottom line is that KG has nothing left to prove to anyone. He’s done it all while being one of the most competitive players to ever put on an NBA uniform. His intensity has been unmatched throughout the years, causing his teammates to adore him while opponents can’t stand him. If KG decides to retire after this year then so be it. If he wants to bring Paul Pierce with him, let him. Both of these men have made huge impacts on the game we all know and love. As a lifetime Celtics fan, I am honored and feel truly privileged to have watched these men perform night in and night out. They’ve had each other’s backs for years, and it would only be fitting if The Big Ticket and The Truth rode away from the TD Garden in the same limousine, reminiscing on their prestigious careers and deciding what they should do first with all of their new found time.
*All stats can be found on NBA.com*