NBA Rumors: Could This Be Kevin Garnett's Last Year As a Boston Celtic?

Chaz SuretteCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2010

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 11:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics reacts to making a basket against the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on December 11, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

He may not be this youngest guy in the NBA anymore, but Kevin Garnett hasn't let that slow him down as of late.

Despite being 34 years old, KG has been playing like a man five years his junior, averaging averaging 15.5 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game so far this season—an improvement from 14.3 PPG and 7.3 RPG last year.

Aside from improved stats, which alone will make any Boston fan giddy, KG once again has the fire and intensity of old, regaining that fierce, intimidating style that made him famous, and infamous, throughout his career.

After missing much of 2008-09 with a knee injury and appearing to lose his competitive edge to the point where he was outdueled by Los Angeles counterpart Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett appears to have regained his old form and much like the Celtics organization, is hungry for redemption after last year's heartbreaking loss in the Finals to the Lakers.

KG's back, and more determined than ever.

However, as many a sports fan knows, nothing lasts forever; the time comes when our favorite athletes must take off the jersey and put away the sneakers. Celtics fans know all about this; they've watched some of the most prolific players in history come and go to and from this city, with the last Big Three: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, retiring in the early 90's.

After that, the Celtics wallowed in mediocrity (and at times, the absolute bottom), until the current Big Three formed in 2007.

Another cycle of retirement may once again be open the Celtics, as Kevin Garnett recently hinted at after Boston's 104-92 victory over the Chicago Bulls on December 2nd:

"I do have a certain way and a certain style I like to be when I hit the court. Shaq gets a smile out of me every now and then, but for the most part, I'm still me. At some point, especially with the lockout coming up...Who knows if this is my last year, or (if) we don't play next year, what it's going to be. So I'm trying to enjoy the guys now."

Celtics fans have been dreading this since KG first took the floor at TD Garden. He was already 31 years old when he first came to Boston, after playing 12 seasons in Minnesota.

The Celtics knew that they would need to win a Championship quickly, as the Big Three were already in their 30's when they came together.

The question now is this: How much longer will Kevin Garnett play?

At 34, barring any unforeseen circumstances, Garnett will (in all likelihood) retire as a Celtic. At the close of his current contract, in June of 2012, Garnett will be 36 and it is unlikely any team would be willing to pick him up at that point.

It would be foolish for Danny Ainge to let him go, as he fits well within this team's offense and he's a huge fan favorite. He's far too ingrained in this team, this fanbase and this city for him to leave now.

As for the lockout, that may very well end Garnett's career. If the lockout lasts all season, as may very well happen given the hot-button issues that need to be ironed out, it would require Garnett to come back for a single season after a full season of inactivity.

Since he would only have a single year on his contract, and with little chance of maintaining his level of play after that, Garnett may be better off not coming back. 

Any contract extension would likely be worthless after 2012. Despite his legacy, the Celtics (and any other team, for that matter) wouldn't want to guarantee a large amount of money to anyone that may not play out their contract, especially someone whose production would not be as valuable at that point, as is the case with Garnett.

And with a year of inactivity, it would be hard for Garnett to regain his previous form, especially given his age. It may very well be best that KG end his career after this year, assuming the lockout is as long as people anticipate.

The only we know for sure is that Kevin Garnett's career is beginning to wind down, and this will likely be his last contract.

After that, it's all speculation.

My thinking is if the lockout lasts all season next year, he won't return. If they go back to playing at some point, or there's a miracle avoidance of a lockout, then he'll play out his contract.

It'll be a sad day in Boston, but all good things must come to an end. And with it looking increasingly likely that Carmelo Anthony will come to New York and join the Knicks, Boston's dominance in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference will be challenged once more, making the loss of KG potentially all the more painful.

When that end is remains to be seen.

Go Green 18!