With Rajon Rondo sidelined for the rest of the season courtesy of a torn ACL, the stage has been set for Boston to do, well, just about anything. Yet dealing Garnett is far different from dealing anyone else on the Celtics—including Paul Pierce.
Garnett is one of four players in the NBA (Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki) with a no-trade clause. Therefore, any trade the Celtics strike, he would have to approve. And he's not about to do that. For anyone.
Remember, this was a guy who considered retirement after last season. Per Greg Payne of ESPN Boston, Garnett's decision came down to the Celtics or retirement, and a source told the Boston Herald that he chose the C's:
The decision came down to whether KG wanted to keep playing . And once he decided that he did, it was going to be Boston. He wasn't going to leave Doc (Rivers) and those guys and play anywhere else.
Is Garnett about to willingly leave the Celtics, the team he spurned retirement for? Is he about to abscond from the very team he made sure couldn't trade him?
Absolutely not, which means he isn't going anywhere, because willingly is the only way he can leave.
That is why we can't buy into any rumors that have Garnett leaving Beantown, including the one that suggests the Los Angeles Clippers are interested in acquiring his services.
According to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News, the Clippers have contacted the Celtics about Garnett's availability:
An offer of Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler, among others, is bound to entice Boston, no? The Celtics will jump at the opportunity to acquire a budding prospect like Bledsoe and a reasonably-priced veteran like Butler, right?
Perhaps, but it doesn't matter. Pushing the deal through wouldn't be their call, it would be Garnett's, and I highly doubt he waives his no-trade rights to play for the Clippers.
Some would point to Los Angeles' elite status as a reason why my logic is faulty. Others would claim that the Clippers or any other title contender interested in trading for Garnett would appeal to his competitive essence, that he would be swayed by the appeal that is synonymous with contention.
Those assessments could be right—except they're not.
Again, Garnett came back to play for the Celtics. His return wasn't strictly fueled by his desire to win, but his devotion to the the Association's version of Gang Green. It wasn't about the guts, the glam or the glory; it was personal.
And Garnett told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports! as much prior to the start of 2013:
My mark is just simple. A guy who was able to be versatile in the game, was able to do multiple things, was always a team guy and played his ass off. That's me. And whoever didn't know me, didn't know me. If they heard stories, that's what it was, a story. That's what I am.
I never have been nothing else. I've never been an individual guy. I never cared about the accolades. I've always been driven by the competition and the learning process.
Though Garnett admits that he is driven by competition, he also divulges that he is not driven by the "accolades." At this stage of his career, nearly two decades into it, Garnett has been there, done that. He has his championship ring, he's seen the light of 15 All-Star selections. So while he's driven by the innate desire to win, he's also fueled by his loyalty to the Celtics franchise.
The same franchise that he won his first and only championship ring with. And the same franchise that, per Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, employs the only coach he will play for:
Despite the comfort zone Perkins has found in the heartland, you get the sense a piece of him died when the Celtics fell to the Heat in Game 7. Perkins spoke with his mentor, Kevin Garnett, a couple of days ago and came away with a couple of distinct impressions: 1) KG is conflicted about retirement, and 2) He won't play for any coach other than Doc Rivers.
'He's caught in between what he wants to do,' Perkins said. 'This is his 17th year, so I don't know. ... But I wouldn't be surprised if they do give one more go at it, just knowing their hearts and their competitiveness. They might go out there and give it another shot."
'I don't know if he wants to play for anybody but Doc,' Perkins said. "That would be the thing. He doesn't want to play for anybody but Doc.'
Anyone else getting the vibe that Garnett wants to win with the Celtics or not at all—play with the Celtics or not at all? I thought so.
Knowing that, how could Boston even attempt to engage in negotiations? Even if the franchise wasn't loyal to the forward, would it really jeopardize the state of their locker room by constructing a trade that has no chance of going through?
What if Boston struck an accord with the Clippers, brought it to Garnett, and he turned it down? What then? Are they supposed to pretend nothing happened and move on?
Of course not. It's not possible when you're dealing with the emotions that connect Garnett to the Celtics. Look what happened with Ray Allen. Boston nearly traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies, Rivers told him he was gone, then the deal fell apart. And so did Allen's relationship with his teammates and the organization.
Boston watched Allen take his talents to South Beach without anything in return—an empty-handed occurrence it can't afford to withstand again.
Sure, Garnett could retire at a moment's notice and leave the Celtics with nothing, but we all know he won't leave until season's end, if at all. We also know that he'll play out the life of his contract if he can.
Theoretically, though, if Garnett rejects a trade and subsequently feels slighted by Boston, he could retire at the end of this season, forgoing the final two years of his deal. In this instance, not only do the Celtics not receive anyone in return for his services (or retirement) but gyp themselves out of two years' worth of Garnett's impact.
Now tell me, how is that ideal? Why would they play Russian roulette with a fully-loaded gun? Better yet, even if the Celtics are willing to disregard the risks involved, how do they legitimately sell a team on a player who doesn't want to play for anybody but Doc?
The notion of adding Garnett is likely to intrigue an onslaught of tangents, but the Celtics can't make an iron-clad guarantee Garnett won't retire at the end of this season even if he accepts a deal.
Would Kevin Garnett even accept a trade from the Celtics?
Are the Clippers willing to relinquish Bledsoe under such context? Is any team willing to part with any significant talent under such parameters? Probably not.
So digest any Garnett rumors between now and the trade deadline with a grain of salt and an onrush of common sense. And understand that Garnett's no-trade clause can't be ignored, even marginally.
Why? Because it doesn't just mean something; it means everything.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82games.com unless otherwise noted.