Of course, “immediate future” is a phrase open to interpretation when a guy is entering his 20th season in the NBA.
Yes, his 20th.
For all we know, Garnett could play three more years. Or three more months. KG is not the type of guy who is going to show his hand. This much we know: He never had a worse season than last season. This we also know: Garnett’s value cannot always be quantified with statistics.
If this is going to be his last season, he’s the only guy who knows it. And even Garnett might not be certain.
“I must admit that these last three years [after the season] I’ve thought about life and where basketball is as far as priorities,” Garnett said Friday at the Nets practice facility. “It’s in the back of your mind. You think about it.
“The decision is either a yes or a no. There’s no 50-50 where you’re in the middle of the road or a gray area. I’m a person that when you commit to something you commit. It’s that simple.”
Despite averaging career lows in nearly every statistical category – including minutes (20.5), points (6.5), shooting (.441), rebounds (6.6), assists (1.5), steals (0.7) and blocks (0.8) – Garnett’s coach and teammates are adamant that he is irreplaceable as a player, energy surge and leader, both in the locker room and on the court.
“I see that he’s in great shape,” said Lionel Hollins, Brooklyn’s fourth coach in the past three seasons. “I’ve never been around a guy that’s so vocal – well, Tony Allen was like that, too, in Memphis. He’s constantly talking, and that energy is contagious. I think it bodes well and I’m looking for Kevin to have a great year.”
“Great” is relative in this conversation, too.
Considering that KG has played nearly 55,000 minutes of professional basketball, it would be “great” if KG stays on the court and out of the way of the injury bug, for starters.
“Right now, without the bumps and bruises? I feel great,” Garnett said with a laugh, well aware that grind of training camp and the 82-game season hasn’t even started yet. “Give me three days and I might tell you a little differently than I am right now.”
That’s a good first step, but KG’s role and how Hollins manages his minutes will play a crucial role in his success this season. Last season, Garnett and coach Jason Kidd didn’t exactly see eye to eye on everything. Playing for Hollins, who “wants a team that can shoot 36 percent and still win the game,” Garnett figures to have a better relationship with his coach.
“He’s old school, which is my kind of guy,” Garnett said. “The first thing I noticed about him was that he had a presence. He spoke very candidly about his views and how he saw this team and how he sees us in the future. Lionel’s system might fit me better just because it’s parallel to some of the things we did up in Boston. As far as with Jason and the system last year, that is what it was. I think I made the proper adjustments to it when I had to.”
Perhaps most important for Garnett to have a successful season on the offensive end will be his awareness of his limitations. Once a marvel with the ball in his hands wherever he touched it, Garnett has been reduced to a mid-range jump shooter, post player and average finisher at the rim in decreased opportunities (see right).
“I don’t really see myself as a primary option; that’s just the reality,” said KG. “If we’re going to be anything it’s going to be because of Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. … I still have something to give to the game and 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.”
As he continues to battle the undefeated Father Time, it is quite possible that KG’s vocal impact will be his greatest asset in his second season in Brooklyn. Garnett will become only the fourth player in NBA history to play 20 seasons, joining Robert Parish (21), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (20) and Kevin Willis (20).
“I’ve been rehabbing here all offseason and it’s been so quiet,” said Lopez. “Then about two weeks ago, KG came back and that immediately changed. We knew the season was on: He was up doing his normal talk and everything. There was no hiding spot from it, either; I couldn’t get away from the guy.
“He’s always been more vocal on the floor, more so than myself. I’ve always been very trusting of my teammates but just looking inward and finding that trust in myself. He really has that confidence in me and it’s contagious.”
Deron Williams echoed Lopez’s statement.
“What he brings to this team leadership-wise can’t be forgotten about, and so we’re excited to have him back,” Williams said. “Just the knowledge he gives the young guys. I think he’s the reason Mason (Plumlee) has developed so fast is because he’s got one of the best big men and players to ever play the game coaching him every day.”
Garnett had to be talked into agreeing to last summer’s trade from Boston to Brooklyn by teammate Paul Pierce. Now Pierce is gone and Garnett is entering the final season of his contract.
But that doesn’t mean he has decided that this is his final season.
“I don’t like to use that,” said Garnett when asked whether this would be his last season. “I like to come in each year and assess it. I already said the days that I’m not feelin’ basketball, which is absurd, or when I don’t have the motivation to come in here, I’ll move on. But that’s not the case. I’m very motivated and looking to have a better year than last year and I’m looking to enjoy it.”
Even though he isn’t the KG of old, enjoy KG while he’s still in uniform.
Jeremy Bauman is a shooting coach and aspiring front office professional who writes columns for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter @JB_For_3_.