There are so many sports superlatives that apply to KG. He gives 110%. He plays one game at a time and leaves everything on the floor. They may be cliche, but they're all true about Kevin Garnett. However, as the 15-time All Star enjoys what could be his final ASW, there's one sports generality that he can't escape: this is a business.
All Star Weekend is supposed to be a crowning achievement. It's supposed to be an honor. For three days, players are the center of the basketball universe because they are the best of the best. Before flying out to Houston, Kevin Garnett suggested that this could be his final All Star game. He recognized that maybe he wouldn't be playing at this level again, but if we're being honest, KG isn't playing at an All-Star level (at least one measured by statistics and highlights).
Let's not forget that Garnett was voted in by the fans as a starter and probably would have been invited as a reserve by the coaches. Fans and coaches alike recognize his contribution to the game. He's one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball. If this truly was his last hoorah, he should have been able to enjoy it with his family and friends peacefully and without distraction, but unfortunately, it hasn't been much of a vacation for the one guy that really deserves one.
From the start of ASW, KG has been bombarded by trade rumors and maybe some self-inflicted innuendos that he might be retiring at the end of the season. What was supposed to be a weekend celebrating his career has turned into an interrogation about what jersey he'll be wearing next.
Right now, KG is a victim of the cruel timing of All Star weekend and the trade deadline. While fans get the opportunity to see the stars all together and the stars get a chance to hang out without the pressure of killing each other on the court, general managers take this time out from the season to evaluate their teams for the short and long term.
The Intensity of Kevin Garnett (via NBA)
No one can say with certainty whether this Celtics team or the Heat or the Thunder or anybody will win an NBA championship. There are thousands of bounces between now and June. Some teams are playing well now and some will peak later. Over the next 96 hours, GM's will look at their rosters and try and tinker with their chemistry so that maybe--just maybe--they'll make the right move and have a shot at The Finals this June. And if they don't think they have a realistic shot this year, some teams will look to improve their chances for next year and the years after that.
That's the conundrum that Danny Ainge is in. With all the trade chatter that's been going around for the last month, you get a sense that Danny's itching to make a move. Maybe only half the rumors are true, but there's little doubt that Ainge is making as many calls as he is taking. The team has two games between now and Thursday's trade deadline with back-to-back slogs in Denver and LA and I don't think it matters to Danny what the outcomes are. He knows this team's at a crossroads.
There's an irony in the way the team has responded in the absences of Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger, and Leandro Barbosa. After losing three key members of their rotation, Ainge's job would be so much easier if the team were losing. Fans would expect Danny to pick up the phone and see what's out there. They might even forgive him for scrapping the season and looking forward to 2014. Trade away an expiring contract for a first round draft pick? O.K. Deal a vet on the vet minimum for some young talent? Good move.
But that's not the case. The veteran leadership of the team has sparked the undermanned C's to win eight of its last ten and brought the hope back to Boston that maybe this season isn't lost after all. Even if the team's recent good play turns out to be fool's gold and the Celtics end the year as a scrappy lower seed that nobody wants to face, it would be indicative of what Garnett means to this team. Just as Kobe Bryant contributes to the dysfunctional atmosphere choking the Lakers, KG's will and leadership make the C's dangerous in any game or series. Forget his skill sets on both ends of the court. It's those intangibles that make him an attractive player for teams like the Clippers, but I implore you, Danny, don't make that move.
Most Games - Kevin Garnett (via bostonceltics)
Jazz fans might be able to forgive and forget Karl Malone's dalliance with the Lakers as he chased a ring with their rival. Portland can celebrate Clyde Drexler's championship in Houston after spending most of his career in the Rose Garden. But the Boston Celtics are different. That may sound like bravado or hubris, but it is truly that romanticism I've felt for this team since I was a kid that's made me a fan all these years.
Players and coaches may feel differently, but to me, the wins and championships are fleeting. In a year, I won't remember if we beat Denver on Tuesday and in ten years, I probably won't be able to tell you who won the championship in 2013. However, what I will remember (and what I hope I'll still believe in) is how the Celtics are just a little different than anybody else.
It's a bumper sticker slogan, but Boston is a brotherhood. There's an invisible tie that binds all these players together. Even when they're no longer playing their home games at the Garden, there are just those special Celtics that will always be Celtics. Kendrick Perkins will always be a Celtic to me just like Robert Parish will always be a Celtic to me. When Don Nelson was coaching in 1982, he convinced Dave Cowens, his former Celtic teammate, to come out of retirement and shore up his front court. That's the brotherhood.
KG - In My House (via bostonceltics)
Sure, Garnett will always be a Celtic, even though he spent his most prolific seasons with the Timberwolves. And he'll still be a Celtic even if Danny convinces him to waive his no-trade clause because a deal with the Clippers is what's best for the organization in the long run. KG is that rare modern athlete that sees his place in history and finds it just as important to revere the legends as it is to teach the youngsters. He willingly and joyfully acts as that bridge between the likes of Bill Russell and Jared Sullinger. I don't think it would take much for Danny to persuade The Big Ticket that moving him helps the franchise he helped breath life back into after twenty years of mediocrity.
But Danny, please don't put KG in that position.
Sentimentality like this can cripple a franchise and Danny knows this best. He (in)famously criticized Red Auerbach for not trading Larry Bird and Kevin McHale for Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins when he had the chance to rebuild. Auerbach's response: loyalty. Could that deal have made the Celtics relevant in 90's? It's debatable, but that really wasn't the point to Red. To him, the championships were born out of trust and guys committing to each other day in, day out. His players didn't need no-trade clauses because they knew if they did their job, they weren't going to have to look over their shoulder.
DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Josh Smith, and even Dwight Howard are all nice, talented players that could all be taught the Celtic way, but trading KG (and Pierce) weakens the very foundation that these guys would be brought in to build on. Maybe enough of that spirit and pride emits from Doc Rivers, manifests itself in Avery Bradley, and pumps through Jeff Green, but there's an immeasurable value in #5 and #34 retiring as Celtics.
It tells every future Celtic that puts on the green that the franchise always has your back. They want to win, but more importantly, they want to win with you.
KG voices his loyalty without qualification, clarification, or apology; he doesn't say he'll stay in Boston only if they're in contention for the Larry O'Brien or because he's honoring some sort of contractual obligation. That's not Kevin Garnett. "If it's up to me, I will live and die green." Those are the unequivocal words of a rare superstar athlete that says what he means and means what he says. You never heard anything like that from Ray Allen and his true colors came out last summer when he turned his back on the Celtics and put on the redcoat red of the Heat.
I'll try and put it as simply as KG does. I'd rather go into battle with a guy that epitomizes everything I love about the Celtics rather than trade him away. The Celtics are different and Garnett is different and that's what makes them special.
You can feel the tangible weight of a championship ring with all it's gold and silver. Its diamonds shine almost as bright as a player's smile when they recall the hard work, the pride, and the bond of a championship run. There are seventeen banners that hang in the Garden, dripping with the blood, sweat, and tears of seventeen seasons that culminated in a trophy. "NBA champion." It's the ultimate title.
However, there are those rare players that transcend even winning at the highest level. Garnett has his chip from 2008, but his biggest contribution to the Celtics doesn't hang in the rafters or fit around a finger. It took six seasons for the skinny kid from South Carolina who cut his teeth for all those years in Minnesota to re-infuse the Celtic way back into Boston. At this point, he is the rafters.