The original thought was to ease Garnett back into the rotation little by little and if his knee responded well, to get him up to speed in time for the playoffs. His latest setback pushes that timetable back. Now we are just hoping to get him back at all in time for the playoffs.
But what then? How much can we reasonably expect from him once he does get back? How rusty will he be after all that time off? He's KG and he already showed he can give us a lot at less than full speed, but he's still human.
So Tony Mejia asks a natural question.
Can the Celtics get through a first-round series without him?
That answer, since they're a championship-level team, is yes.
He goes on to outline a potential timeline:
Taking the timeline of his projected return into account, he'll be eased into games late in the regular season, should be limited for that first playoff week or so to the cause likely just be rounding into shape late in that first round, working off the rust.
It is an interesting question to ponder. We are staring at the very real possibility that Garnett will not be "100%" against whomever we face in the first round. A prospect that even KG's teammates seems resigned to. Everyone seems to be talking in percentage points (via the Herald):
- Paul Pierce: "Kevin at 75 percent is as good as anyone in the league"
- Kendrick Perkins: "You could tell (Garnett's) not 100 percent. He has a bit of a limp."
- Perkins again: "’ll take 60 percent of KG rather than none in the playoffs"
The good news is that the reports indicate there has been no ligament damage. So from what I've read, that leaves a very good chance of recovery. The bad news is that there may be "a strained tendon" and "loose cartilage." I'm no doctor and even if I was, I wouldn't have access to KG's knee. So I haven't a clue what we can make of all of this.
I can't tell you for sure if he'll be 100%, 75%, 60%, or 0% for the first round. But I can say that the first round opponent means a little bit more than it did a few days ago. As it stands now, Orlando is ahead of us in the standings and will face the 7 seed.
Right now that means the Magic get the Pistons and the Celtics get the Sixers. That could be a tremendous blessing in disguise. Home court vs. the Magic (assuming they do advance) in the 2nd round would be nice, but right it is more important to have an easier road in the first round.
I could see the Magic and Pistons duke it out in a hard fought first round, leaving the victor tired and weary for the next round. Like Mejia, I have a lot of confidence we can beat the Sixers even without KG at all. I'm a lot less confident if we have to face the battle tested Pistons in the first round. So I'll be rooting for the Sixers to beat the Pistons when they face each other on Saturday in a key game for deciding the seeds.