The KG Conundrum

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It sounds like KG is considering retiring. I like virtually all Celtics fans, want KG to return next season to the Celtics. In fact, regardless of what Danny’s vision is for this summer, retool for one last shot or rebuild, I think Garnett’s presence on the team next year would be a tremendous asset.

Now if the sources are to be believed, if KG decides to play it will, only be for Doc, only on a competitive team and only for a salary commeasurable with his value to the team. From where I am sitting those all seem like reasonable requests, expect here is the rub, if KG only wants to play for the Celtics (I haven’t heard any rumors that Doc is planning on leaving) and he only wants to play for a competitive team, it seems to me that KG controls whether or not those conditions are met based on what he asks for in salary.

I have heard different sources say KG could get anywhere from $8-14 million next year, is he worth it? I think so yes, but the simple reality is if the Celtics pay KG $14 million or even $10 million, there really won’t be much money left to improve the team around him, in fact next year’s team would probably look very similar to this year’s team or feature more untested young players – a prospect that I assume KG would find unappealing. KG’s other option, if he wants to continue playing and is unsatisfied with what the Celtics can offer either in money or supporting cast, is to go elsewhere.

This too is not as simple as it seems. I do not have a list in front of me of the teams with significant cap space available this summer but suffice to say the list is not littered with contenders. Sure the Pacers could use some of their money to make a run at KG but that would mean sacrificing one of their guys. The Mavs are always creative but they would have to gut their team to an extent to make it work and then, are they really competitive? The other option is KG could accept less to sign somewhere like SA or Chicago, but of course, he could just do that here in Boston.

There is nothing particularly complicated about the KG situation at all really. The fact is KG has to decide if he wants to continue playing, if he does but only if he can contend for a championship, then his best course is to sign 1 year deal, maybe with a player option for short money with the Celtics, say $5 million. He could certainly get more on the market and is worth more no doubt, but if he wants to win the Celtics need money to attract a supporting cast. If he can talk Ray into something similar, great, the Celtics keep the big four together and still have anywhere from $12-15 million to play with and two first round picks.

Now I understand the "respect" issue that comes with what players are paid but I would submit that the circumstances are different here. KG has made over $200 million in his career and by all accounts he is no spendthrift so he presumably has a very healthy amount of money stashed away for his post-basketball life. So the question is what is the value of "winning"? Can KG handle playing with players who may be inferior to him but are being paid better because that is what it will take to finish his career on a team that is competing for championships? I don’t know the answer to this question, only KG does and if the answer is "NO" I don’t blame KG for that but it really is in his hands.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that KG has to sign for way below market rate or he is a traitor or anything like that. I am simply saying that if KG still has the desire to play, but only wants to play for a team that is legitimately trying to win it all, how much he asks for in salary will dictate how competitive his team can be. As a Celtics fan, I would love KG to come back, even if it meant paying him $10-12 million, because I don’t see any free agents worth the money this summer and he makes the team worth watching, but everyone (KG included) has to be honest with themselves and realistic, if KG signs for that kind of money the Celtics will not be able to significantly enhance the supporting cast. They would be a playoff team but even a run like this year’s would be a long shot at best.

So as KG mulls his next step, I think he really controls what his future team would look like. In short, if he goes for the money, then whatever team he signs with will have to weaken itself in order to pay him, that doesn’t mean they won’t be a better team for having KG but they will have to sacrifice something to get him, example, if the Pacers have let one of their young restricted free agents go to get KG, then Pacers have to at least take a half-step back in order to take a step forward with KG, the result is a half-step upgrade.

On the other hand for the teams that are close enough that a half-step up could put them over the top (OKC, Miami, Chicago) KG could only go there by accepting a lot less money. I hope KG decides to come back and that he tells Danny he wants to make a real run at banner #18 by signing a deal for short money (say $5 million) with the condition that Danny use the money he has available to add some younger veterans who can help KG and PP compete. If KG decides he will only play if he can get a good pay day, I will still respect him but perhaps the Celtics should consider blowing things up, because I don’t see the point in fighting for the 8 seed.

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