Kevin Garnett–The Big Ticket; MVP; future Hall of Famer–whatever you choose to call the 38-year-old, 15-time NBA All-Star, it cannot fully encapsulate how Garnett influenced the game of basketball.
Garnett is currently contemplating retirement after his first season in Brooklyn, which saw the forward/center play a near career-worst 54 games because of a lingering back injury. His minutes were also closely monitored by the coaching staff.
Now Garnett, with all the accolades he has effortlessly collected throughout the years, is surrounded by a significant, but not drastically different roster than he was last year.
Not much has been heard from the big ticket after Brooklyn bowed out of the Eastern Conference playoffs in five games to the Heat. But much has changed to the roster, specifically the big men. One-time All-Star Brook Lopez is returning from foot surgery and Mason Plumlee had a fantastic summer, making the USA Team and performing well in summer league.
““He said he feels great,” Plumlee told Andy Vasquez back in August. “He’s hungry, too, for this season. He didn’t like how last season ended.
Garnett’s new coach, Lionel Hollins, also believes that he will have his big man available at the start of the season.
“All reports that I have [from team management] is that he’s coming back. It’s his right to make that decision, that’s out of my control,” Hollins told Jared Zwerling in August.
After missing out on playing for a championship, like his team’s in Boston did for just about each of the seven years he was there, Garnett faces competition from younger players like Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic; and his last big pay day with $12 million owed to him in the final year of his contract. Much like the case surrounding Tim Duncan, albeit no NBA Finals sendoff, Garnett needs to look inside himself and make sure he leaves no stone unturned before he decides to leave the game behind.
First, Garnett has to come to grips with the likelihood he will be playing starter minutes anymore. If he does start for the Nets, it will like be for the first several minutes just to set the tempo and establish dominance defensively, something that has been on the decline as he continues to age. Still, Garnett is more than serviceable matching up with premier offensive standouts like an Al Jefferson or Greg Monroe.
Secondly, he will need to have a talk with Hollins about his role, if he hasn’t already. Hollins has maintained that all of his veterans will “play whatever minutes they deserve to play.”
Garnett has played at high level for the majority of his 19-year NBA career. He sports career averages of 19 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks per game. He’s never been a selfish player and is a classy motivator, evidenced by his backing of Rajon Rondo throughout his tenure as Celtic.
If Garnett returns, plays roughly 20 minutes per game, fully healthy, and continues to help Plumlee grow then I can see a potentially fruitful post-retirement partnership with Brooklyn in the future. Picture Garnett, a better version of Jermaine O’Neal, coming off of the bench in his later years.
Lastly, Garnett will have to accept not contending for a title another year. The near 7-footer has contended for titles for periods in Boston and Minnesota.
The bar has been lowered this season in Brooklyn but the future remains bright. The Nets have Lopez, Plumlee and two continuously impressing draft picks in Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson. Garnett could be a key cog in sending off the young’ns in his last swan song.
Garnett has been there done that. After an outstanding high school career, he was drafted with the fifth pick in the 1995 draft. His rookie season was initially rocky, coming off of the bench and dealing with a coaching change. Garnett also had to co-exist with Christian Laettner in the front court and then Stephon Marbury in the following seasons.
He revolutionized the forward position going into the 21st century, stretching the floor with his outside shooting and ability to take the ball of the dribble
After the 1997-98 season, in which he was awarded a six-year, $126 million contract extension for his play, Garnett’s career took off. He started every single game that season, was marred by several first-round dismissals in the Western Conference playoffs but won the MVP award in 2004 after he led the Timberwolves to the Western Conference Finals.
That would be the last year Garnett and the Timberwolves would make the playoffs and he was later traded in the 2007 offseason to the Celtics for a suite of young prospects and draft picks.
Garnett became a staple in Boston’s lineup and was the heart and soul — the anchor of the team — for seven seasons. In Boston, he earned some serious hardware including one championship ring in two NBA Finals appearances. He also racked up several all-defensive team awards and All-Star appearances while donning the green and white.
Whether you love him or hate him, there’s no denying the effect Garnett has had on the NBA with his passion and his propensity to leave it all on the court. As Garnett writes the last chapter in his storied legacy, and uncertainty sets in, don’t forget the plays that helped make him the big ticket.
One of the records that could be broken if Garnett decides to return for a 20th season, the all-time record for rebounding. He would need 351 rebounds to pass Karl Malone.