Once Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe reported that trades talks between the Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers were dead, Garnett was instantly (and finally) thrust head-first into the transactional mayhem that was being waged from coast-to-coast.
Danny Ainge confirms to the @BostonGlobe that the proposed Clippers-Celtics deal is, in fact, dead.— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) June 18, 2013
Never mind believing that Garnett was innocent in all this. He's guilty as charged, the charge being passive, yet not-so-passive compliance.
Notice how he hasn't publicly come out and said anything. Absolutely nothing. No matter though, he doesn't need to. His silence is deafening.
Like Doc Rivers, Garnett wants out of Boston.
Memories from the last half-decade plus will be experiences he holds dear to his heart for the rest of his life. The championship in 2008, the NBA Finals loss in 2010 and the near upset of the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals one year ago, he'll remember it all.
The problem is those experiences with the Celtics are now mementos of Garnett's past, remnants of a team that was. Those Celtics no longer exist; their goals are no longer attainable.
Some maimed version of the team could have still been fielded next season, the operative word here being "could." Boston was always one Danny-Ainge-change-of-heart away from giving it another go with Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Rivers.
Had Ainge not made it clear he would rather rebuild, things would have been different. Those Los Angeles rumors wouldn't have surfaced and Boston would have gone about business as usual.
Instead, Ainge decided it was time to do what he should have probably done earlier and begin a complex reclamation project. At the very least, he was more than open to starting from scratch. We have to believe that much. Rivers wouldn't have attempted to escape a city that became family over the last nine years if Ainge was hell-bent or even slightly amenable to giving this group another year, another chance.
So Garnett tried to leave via Rivers, suggesting that he still has plenty of basketball left in those veins of his, precious energy he would prefer not to expend with the Celtics.
That's where we're at: Garnett wants to return. He would have either been sipping mai-tais by the beach or taken the Jason Kidd route by lobbying to become the next head coach of the Clippers if he didn't. Had he wanted to retire, he would have retired.
He wants to continue to playing—with strings attached.
Simply playing just to play isn't on the 37-year-old's bucket list. Contention is what he's after 18 years into his professional career. Consenting to remain in Boston entails sacrificing his body and ambitions for a team that is unfit to take him where he wants to go.
Our carousel of thinking brings us back to retirement, the ultimate exit.
Walking away from the Celtics in conjunction with the league permits Garnett to leave with dignity. That was the whole point of this Clippers ordeal, was it not?
If the trigger had been pulled, Garnett would have left Boston involuntarily. Waiving his no-trade clause would have been explained as him submitting to the will of the Celtics.
Doc wanted him in Los Angeles, the Clippers wanted him in Los Angeles and the Celtics wanted him out of Boston for financial reasons. The NBA is a business. Sometimes it gets ugly and concessions need to be made.
That's how Garnett's decision would have been slung. Like he was was collateral damage or a victim of too many moving parts.
Some would have known better, understanding that his current lack of transparency couldn't be easier to see through if he were wrapped in cellophane. Others would be blinded by the things he had done, arguing that he deserved to play for a championship-caliber outfit.
Either lens you see it through is fine, so long as you know Garnett indeed wanted out. And for awhile, Doc, the Celtics and the Clippers seemed prepared to give him that out.
Then kaboom. Everything blew up once Donald Sterling realized money would be coming out of his pocket and Ainge got too greedy for Hollywood's taste.
Clippers refused to give additional 1st-round pick, but ultimately $35M extension for Rivers and $3M-plus Jordan trade kicker played part.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 18, 2013
Now there's only one immediate way out—retirement.
Forget about Garnett finishing out his contract or coming back for one more year with the Celtics. It's doubtful he can return to Boston after this, even if Rivers does.
Danny Ainge has called Doc Rivers to tell him that talks are done, sources tell Y! Sports. Ainge told him he still wants him as coach.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 18, 2013
If he did, all wouldn't be forgotten. Though he specifically wasn't portrayed as someone who was trying to leave, he tried to leave. Barring a blockbuster trade that suddenly makes the Celtics overwhelming contenders, there's no coming back from here.
There's no use believing Garnett is prepared to force his hand any further either. He wouldn't go near the mess that comes with a publicly coerced escape at this stage of his career with a 50-foot pole.
Recovering from the Minnesota Timberwolves debacle was possible; it was easy. Garnett was in his prime, capable of having an impact on a team that would culminate in a title. People tend to forget about an impure past when championships are being contended for and a title is being won.
Wherever Garnett goes next, there would still be a championship to be won. He wouldn't leave Boston if there wasn't. His window in which to win one won't be as wide open as it was when he left Minny, though. He had six years (and counting) left to contend. Now he has like two.
Which made Los Angeles the perfect situation.
Maybe he would have won a title, maybe he wouldn't have (go with wouldn't). With the Clippers it wouldn't have mattered because he would have left under the pretense that he decided to surrender to Boston's desire to rebuild without him. Who cares if the public didn't buy it as long as he could say it?
Similar luxuries aren't available to Garnett now. If he leaves Boston, it will be on his own accord; because he forced his way to another team or, more likely, retired. The latter is easier for his legacy as both a player and a Celtic.
There's always alternatives, of course. Garnett could return to the Celtics and play on, hoping his charismatic fearlessness and Hall of Fame credentials will win over the Boston faithful. That could still happen.
Who will Kevin Garnett be playing for next season?
But it just wouldn't be the same.
Never again would he be the unadulterated savior the city believed him to be. Never again would he be beyond reproach. Everything would be different.
Assuming a carbon-copy to that of what almost went down between the Clippers and Celtics doesn't present itself, Garnett may return to Boston in an effort to sort through the chaos help. Or he might retire, going out as a Celtic just like he originally planned before there were any strings attached.
Put in that context, it's easy to understand Garnett has reached the point of no return, and that he's more likely to retire and salvage what's left of a deteriorating union than play another minute for the transitioning Celtics.