Roger Kahn, author of "The Boys of Summer," wrote, "Unlike most, a ball player must confront two deaths. First, between the ages of thirty and forty he perishes as an athlete." Kahn is referring to baseball players, but this quote applies to all athletes. Kahn continued, "At a point when many of his classmates are newly confident and rising in other fields, he finds that he can no longer hit a very good fastball or reach a grounder four strides to his right."
These lines make me think of Kevin Garnett, who turns 38 Monday, and his current situation. The Nets want him back. Jason Kidd and Billy King made that clear Thursday.
Jason Kidd said #Nets definitely want Kevin Garnett back next season and he has a decision to make. Said it's tough knowing when to retire.— Rod Boone (@rodboone) May 15, 2014
Billy King said he spoke with Kevin Garnett on team plane last night. Told him to get away and he didn't need an answer right now.— Rod Boone (@rodboone) May 15, 2014
The reality is Garnett isn't as talented as he once was. He's half as quick as he used to be, and can't play for long stretches anymore. His best days are behind him, and now it's possible that he may have stepped on the hardwood for the final time on Wednesday night. In basketball terms, Kevin Garnett is "old," but that doesn't mean he still doesn't have some life left and a never-ending passion for basketball.
Garnett finally became his true, actual age this season. He was showing signs of growing old during his final years in Boston with the Celtics, but he always managed to turn back the clock time and again. Last postseason, he went for 12 points and 13 rebounds against the New York Knicks after it seemed like Garnett had little left in his tank. He's not the spry "kid" we knew him to be in Minnesota -- not even close -- but yet he's still here, putting in work. The stats, the raw data, may show a decline, sure, but the heart is still there.
"The Big Ticket" is special. He still gets that one dribble, elbow jumper to fall time and time again. He is one of the best help-side defenders in the league at almost 38 years old. KG still is one of—if not the—scariest players to go up against in the NBA. He is, still valuable.
I only watched Kevin Garnett intently this season, and he earned my respect despite it being his worst statistical season. It was sad at times, but the guy fought until the very last whistle. I watched him struggle to get acquainted with the Nets offensive scheme through November and December and I saw him battle back spasms and old age in the early spring.
But then—like the Nets as a team—I watched him have a resurgent 2014. Back spasms aside, Garnett shot much more efficiently and his defense was improved in the second half. He shot 55.6% from the floor after January 1 in the regular season and allowed 95.6 points per 100 possessions since the turn of the calendar year.
Garnett is the ultimate team player which may have been his most important contribution to the team. His play wasn't game changing, but his impact on the team and his presence on the floor changed how team's looked at the Nets. KG was always there to help his teammate up after getting knocked down, not afraid of anybody and would go to war for his team. You can tell his theology was ingrained in the Nets by the time the season ended. The bench was always vocal and energetic during games and three men were always there to help a fallen teammate off the hardwood.
So now that brings me to my plea: do not retire, KG. He still has something left in the tank. We saw it in Game's 6 and 7 against the Toronto Raptors when he combined for 25 points on 66% shooting and grabbed 16 rebounds in 49 minutes of play. Jason Kidd was very stringent with his minutes this season, Garnett played a career-low 20 minutes per game, and it was the right call by Kidd. Garnett just isn't capable of playing north of 20-plus minutes per game anymore even though many called for him to get more playing time (me being one of them).
Next year in Brooklyn, if he opts to return, Garnett will likely be a prominent reserve. It will be weird not seeing Garnett raise his hand to the east and west of the court, banging his head against the covering around the base of the hoop, and taking the tip, but that is what should happen.
Garnett would anchor the bench unit as he continues to develop Mason Plumlee into a defensive force while also helping Brook Lopez refine his defense and spread the floor. In an ideal world, Garnett will play around 15 minutes in his second year in Brooklyn and his last year in the league. He will keep this seasons philosophy of small-ball in tact at points in the game and help cement the intensity that he brought to Brooklyn like he did this season.
Kevin Garnett is a one of a kind basketball player, with a rare passion for the game. Despite watching him painfully age this season in Brooklyn, he always gave it his all and wouldn't show his pain. Give it one more go, Kevin, and see if anything really is possible.