Return or Retirement of 19-year veteran looms over Nets’ offseason
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Neither Kevin Garnett nor Billy King was in a very talkative mood following the Nets’ playoff elimination at the hands of the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat last month in South Beach.
And for good reason.
Garnett had just completed the least productive of his 19 NBA seasons, averaging career lows of 6.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while logging just over 20 minutes per contest, as per coach Jason Kidd’s restrictions on his playing time.
King, who put together the most expensive roster in the history of the NBA in pursuit of the franchise’s first-ever title, watched his team squander several late leads against the Heat en route to a five-game ousting in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Both remained mum in the moments following the 96-94 defeat to the eventual conference champions on May 14, Garnett leaving the Nets’ locker room without uttering a single word to a reporter and King opting not to address the media at all.
On Wednesday morning during the Nets’ free-agent mini-camp in East Rutherford, N.J., King had no choice but to address the issue that might figure quite prominently in Brooklyn’s offseason plan for the 2014-15 campaign.
Will Kevin Garnett return for his 20th NBA season?
And if so, will it be as a Net?
"He's under contract," King stated matter-of-factly, citing the $12 million Garnett is owed for next season. "Until he tells me otherwise, he's under contract."
Thus far, Garnett hasn’t told anyone anything in regard to whether or not he’ll be back for Year 20.
His illustrious and well-decorated career has been highlighted by the NBA title he won with Paul Pierce (2008) in Boston and the MVP award (2004) he took home with Minnesota while establishing himself as one of the sport’s fiercest competitors.
But back spasms and a clear deterioration of his offensive skills made Garnett a virtual non-factor at times during the Nets’ push to the playoffs and their eventual elimination following a thrilling Game 7 victory over Toronto in the first round.
The 15-time All-Star did, however, play a pivotal role in the rapid development of first-year Nets center Mason Plumlee, who earned All-Rookie honors under Garnett’s tutelage and played a key role in the team’s comeback from a dismal 10-21 start.
King, who admitted before the season that Garnett was brought here to fortify the Nets’ resolve in times of crisis, both on and off the court, was kind, but honest when assessing the 38-year-old’s first season in our fair borough.
"I think he was good," King noted. "You can say he's not the Garnett of 12 years ago, [but] I think what he gave us and what he brought to the table and how [Kidd] used him was good."
While King awaits word from Garnett, he may want to seek counsel from Pierce, who is a free agent the Nets would likely want to have back.
Pierce and Garnett, both future Hall of Famers, formed a very tight bond during their years with the Celtics. And it was that bond that led Garnett to accept a trade to Brooklyn, along with Pierce, last summer, as long as the $12 option for 2014-15 on his contract was picked up.
Having Garnett back in the fold might make Pierce’s decision to return, for a year or even two, that much easier. Even if King might prefer to have that $12 million in cap space at his disposal.
"If a guy changes course and decides to retire, then you make that decision,” King insisted. “But you don't go in thinking, 'OK, he's retiring.' You’ve got to assume that $12 million is going to be in your cap and you plan that way. That's how you go forward."
With this month’s draft at Barclays Center looming and next month’s free-agency period just around the corner, King and the Nets would like an answer from Garnett sooner rather than later.
K.G., or no K.G.?
Thus far, that’s Brooklyn's biggest offseason question.