It’s been 10 days since Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers embraced toward the end of Game 7 in Miami, and in that time there’s been a steady stream of speculation about Garnett’s plans for next season. The 36-year-old is free to sign with any team this summer, free to retire, free to do what he likes. The Celtics would love to have Garnett back, even though they aren’t explicitly saying it.
“If you haven’t noticed, I’m not revealing too much here,” Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said on WEEI’s Mut and Merloni show on Friday. “Kevin and Ray [Allen] have been great players for this organization. I can’t really say more than that.”
Grousbeck’s silence on Garnett may be in deference to Garnett’s desire for privacy. Garnett has not said anything publicly about his plans. He left American Airlines Arena 10 days ago without speaking to reporters, but that’s nothing new. He’s done that after big losses time and time again in his five-year Celtics career.
The closest we’ve come to any kind of inside scoop on Garnett may have come from his former teammate Kendrick Perkins, the current center for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Perkins told the Globe’s Gary Washburn he thought Garnett would return to the Celtics if he plays at all this season.
“I feel like if he does return to basketball, I think that that would be the team,” Perkins said. “I heard Kevin say a few times that he wouldn’t want to play for anybody but Doc, so it will be interesting to see. I still think he got a lot more years in him. He got a lot of love for the game and it would be hard to see Kevin walk away from the game right now.”
A couple of days later, Flip Saunders, Garnett’s former coach in Minnesota, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune he was “positive” Garnett would come back for one more year with the Celtics. Toward the end of the season, Saunders hung around the Celtics as an adviser to Rivers. Saunders was in on Celtics practices and meetings, and he was seen walking around Philadelphia with Rivers during the team’s downtime. If anyone is in position to know Garnett’s plans — and no one but Garnett seems to know for sure — Saunders seems to have an inside track.
A big question as to whether or not Garnett comes back will be about how much money he makes going forward. It won’t be the $21 million he earned this season. But it also needs to be commensurate with his performance, which in the playoffs was almost 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. The premium for a player of Garnett’s credentials who puts up those kind of numbers is still very high. Celtics broadcaster Mike Gorman told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich show Tuesday he thought Garnett could return for $12-13 million this season, or on a two-year deal for around $20 million. The Celtics would likely be OK with that, but they probably need to sort out those parameters before free agency begins July 1.
Garnett is probably worth the wait, but the Celtics do eventually need to get going on building out this team’s future. They probably can’t afford a free-agent center like Indiana’s Roy Hibbert if Garnett sticks around. If they know Garnett is coming back, they can put more emphasis on filling out the wings with players like Jeff Green, building up their frontcourt through the draft. If Garnett is gone, Boston’s frontcourt needs become much more immediate.