Kevin Garnett entered the League as Da Kid and developed into the Big Ticket through years of carrying his team on his back. Now, as the final chapter of Garnett’s eventual Hall-of-Fame career begins, the Nets’ power forward is no longer looked upon to carry a franchise’s weight each and every night, instead, Garnett will be looked upon to be an important veteran piece in a Brooklyn lineup that will return four of it’s five main guys this season.
There was doubt that Garnett, who is entering his 20th season in the NBA, and second with Brooklyn, would return – especially after the loss of Paul Pierce to the Washington Wizards – and he admitted at the Nets’ media day that he had contemplated retirement this past summer, but there was an overriding factor leading him back for another shot at a championship.
“(Retirement is) always somewhere in there, especially when you come up short of your goal for the year,” Garnett said. “But I must admit these last three years I’ve thought about life and where basketball is as far as priority. So yeah, in the back of your mind you think about it. But the decision is yes or no. It’s not like 50-50 I’m in the middle of the road or grey area. I’m a person that when you commit to something, you commit to it. It’s that simple.”
Garnett played in 54 games last season, averaging 6.5 points and 6.6 rebounds in a career-low 20.5 minutes per game – his rebounding averages were the lowest since his rookie season, the other two stats were career lows. In spite of all that, however, Garnett doesn’t feel like he needs to prove those who feel like his best days are behind him wrong.
“I don’t need to show people anything,” he said. “That’s first off. Secondly, for myself, last year I think everybody had to take some takes on their own game and give a little bit for the betterment of (the team), and I did just that. I think (coach) Lionel (Hollins), from what I hear of his system, might fit me a little better just because it’s a little parallel to the things we did up in Boston. But granted my situation in (Jason Kidd’s) system last year was what it was. I thought I made the proper adjustments to it when I had to. I really don’t see myself as primary and that’s just reality. But I still can give. I still have something to give to the game, to this team and my mindset has always been to be better than I was last year or to be better than I was yesterday. So I’m not going to change that.”
Garnett has faced questions about his future the past two seasons – first, following his last year with Boston, and then again following the Nets’ second-round playoff exit in April. Even though he’s in the final year of his contract, he refused to get caught get up in saying that this season would be his swan-song.
“I like to come in each year and assess it,” Garnett said. “I’ve always said the days when I’m not feeling basketball again, which is absurd, or when I don’t have the motivation to come in here, it’s time to move on. But that’s not the case. I’m very much motivated. I’m looking to have a better year than last year and I’m looking to enjoy this year.”
Garnett’s most vital role this season may be helping Brook Lopez take the next step and lead the Nets on a nightly basis. Injuries can’t be helped, but Lopez will need to become the franchise player if Brooklyn are to threaten for a top four seed in the East.
“He’s helped me become more vocal on the floor, more confident in myself” said Lopez. “I’ve always been very trusting in my teammates but [I’m] just looking at being able to find that trust in myself.”
Garnett knows he may no longer be the primary option, but that doesn’t mean his season goals alter. He wants to win another championship.
“I mean that’s what we are playing for right?” Garnett said. “I don’t think no one is souped up to come in second. I don’t think guys are coming in here to prepare to come in anything less than. The reality part of that is probably something else, but the mindset has to be championship or nothing. At least mine is. So yeah.”