Kevin Garnett Must Re-Focus Celtics in Wake of Failed Doc Rivers Trade
If KG chooses to return for his 19th NBA season, it will be his job to re-focus the Celtics in the wake of the drama that has unfolded since the team was knocked out of the 2013 NBA playoffs by the New York Knicks.
While that might seem like an obvious or even ludicrous statement, the events of the trade negotiations between the Celtics and the Los Angeles Clippers gave way to the idea that KG would soon be the emotional leader of another franchise when the 2013-14 season began.
But Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday afternoon that the Doc Rivers aspect of the proposed trade(s) was already dead, paving the way to the idea that all the chatter over the last week about a Chris Paul-Rivers-Garnett trio has been nothing more than a pipe dream.
Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald confirmed on Saturday that talks between the Clips and C's for Garnett were "probably" dead. If Garnett is coming back for season No. 19, right now it looks like he's doing it with Boston.
As the team's emotional leader, Garnett has been tasked with the responsibility of creating the drive for his teammates when it just isn't there, keeping the defense stiff and being a leader on offense, defense and off the court, too.
There's healing to be done in Boston, and KG will be integral in starting that healing process.
That healing will likely start with the head coach, whomever it is when next season opens. As noted by Murphy on Twitter, the Celtics are scheduled (again) to have a press conference with Rivers and general manager Danny Ainge on Monday:
Apropos to the continued weirdness of this whole affair, Rivers/Ainge press conference now postponed to Monday.— Mark Murphy (@Murf56) June 21, 2013
Rivers has been the subject of speculation concerning his imminent departure for quite some time, with Chris Broussard's ESPN report in early June busting the door down by claiming the nine-year Boston head coach was contemplating a "change."
Negotiations with the Clippers started soon after, and since Rivers has three years and roughly $21 million remaining on his contract, a trade was the only way the head coach was going to be able to force his way out of Boston and coach next season.
At one point, it looked more than likely that Rivers and KG were headed West.
But talks broke down when the NBA league office intervened, and the process apparently hinged on the Clips giving up more than a second-round pick to secure a head coach that took Boston to the 2008 NBA Finals title.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne had that report as things unraveled Friday morning.
More drama unfolded later in the day, as the press conference situation unfolded before our eyes. Rivers now has reportedly flown back to Orlando to decide about his future with his family, but that hasn't stopped speculation about factors of his dismissal.
Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops made more waves on Saturday afternoon, claiming that Rivers and point guard Rajon Rondo have been at each other's throat and there is a dislike between the two.
According to Sheridan, Rivers and Rondo almost came to blows in the locker room following a Celtics team meeting (time line not provided). He also posts a link to an interview with Bill Lekas of SiriusMadDog Radio, in which Sheridan further illustrates that the Rivers situation has been compounded by his clash with Rondo.
Is that enough drama for you?
Of course, it's worth noting that KG is anything but certain to return to the Celtics. He has two years and about $24 million remaining on the deal he signed to stay with the Celtics last summer, but as we saw with Jason Kidd earlier this summer, money isn't always everything.
B/R's Jimmy Spencer had an earlier prediction that KG would avoid retirement until later:
Prediction: Kevin Garnett will NOT retire. And more obvious, neither will Paul Pierce.— Jimmy Spencer (@JimmySpencerNBA) May 4, 2013
Things have changed since then, and there's a good chance his future could be tied to Rivers. One of the biggest reservations about Rivers, per all these reports, is that he doesn't want to be involved in a rebuilding effort, and at age 37, the same goes for Garnett.
But assuming everything stays status quo in Boston (Rivers returns, KG returns, Pierce returns and Rondo returns from injury), it's going to be up to Garnett to figure out how to pick up the pieces from all the drama connecting the Celtics to the brink of implosion.
Garnett, maybe more than any other player in the "Big Four," provides something to the franchise that you can't see in stats or on paper—his mere presence gives life to Boston players, coaches and fans alike because that's just who he is.
What should Boston's No. 1 priority this offseason be?
We'll know more about the future of the franchise on Monday, but either way, Garnett is going to have to remind us about what his future is also going to be—return or retire, if you will.
If it's return, then there's some fractured pieces that need mending on this Celtics franchise. If the disappointment of a first-round playoff exit wasn't enough, the C's will now have to deal with a (reported) player-coach feud and the idea that the coach wanted out before they can move forward.
KG has been integral to Boston's success on the court.
For the Celtics to be successful on that same court again, he'll need to roll up his sleeves and help this team re-focus itself on success, sportsmanship and togetherness to get back to being the most storied franchise (by championships) in the history of the league.
Follow Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.
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