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Kevin Garnett, who turns 39 in May, leads the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage. This is a remarkable standing regardless of age. Garnett, who has already led the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage twice in his career, is just nudging out the high-flying DeAndre Jordan for the league’s lead. When Garnett was drafted into the NBA in 1995, Jordan was just six years old.
This is what makes Garnett’s most recent game with the Brooklyn Nets, one that saw him sit out for the final 27:28 of game play, more a little curious. And sad. From Stefan Bondy at the New York Daily News:
With the game resting on a couple defensive possessions, KG was reduced to cheerleader, watching the Nets (18-28) give up three pivotal offensive rebounds in overtime and lose for the 12th time in their last 14 games.
“Just a coach’s decision,” Hollins said about benching Garnett.
Despite Garnett’s lofty standing in one advanced statistic, his 2014-15 box score numbers are hardly stellar. KG is averaging 6.8 points and, 6.9 rebounds a contest. He’s blocked just seven shots in 37 games. His 21 minutes per game is tied for the lowest mark of any starter in the NBA. In just nine and a half minutes of play against the Raptors on Friday, the Nets were somehow -16 with Garnett on the floor. Things are not going well.
This is why it’s been suggested that Garnett might be an apt candidate for a midseason buyout. Such a move would make him a free agent, able to glom onto any willing championship candidate for one last storybook ending in what is undoubtedly Garnett’s final season.
KG, however, seems to want nothing to do with the plan that seems so obvious and so compelling. From Alex Raskin at the Wall St. Journal:
As of right now, Garnett explained, he is “all in” with the Nets, who have lost four straight games and suffered through a winless January at home.
“I haven’t thought too much of my own personal [situation],” Garnett said. “When that road comes, I’ll cross it and I’ll deal with it. A lot of things with [my] family situation and things, it’s not just convenient to get up and move, to change things. It’s not as convenient as it once was when I was younger. I have a lot more responsibilities and things to take into account.”
Still, Garnett didn’t rule out the possibility of accepting a buyout. “I don’t know what management is going to do,” he said. “When my situation comes up, I’ll obviously give it some attention. Other than that, my attention is trying to get us on a winning streak, get us on a road where everybody’s playing together.”
The Nets, losers of 12 of their last 14, are stuck at 18-28. That mark leaves them a full game and a half out of the Eastern playoff bracket, all while working with a player payroll that vaults into the nine-figure mark once luxury taxes are factored in. The team’s front office tossed up the white flag earlier in the season by letting the league know that just about any of its players were available via trade, as the squad attempts to cut current and future payroll in anticipation of a possible selling of the franchise.
Garnett was not featured in those trade designs, however, because he is one of four NBA players with a no-trade clause. Kevin will make $12 million this season in the final year of his contract, and any buyout would provide minimal savings (if any) for Brooklyn. The move would be made to send Garnett to a team deserving of his past accomplishments and potential as a bit player and leader.
This isn’t the first time Garnett has had a no-trade clause. It was in place when he allowed the Celtics to deal him to Brooklyn for a franchise-killing score of draft picks in 2013. There wasn’t an official no-trade clause in place when Garnett put up MVP-level numbers for terribly-constructed Minnesota Timberwolves teams from 2004-07, but Garnett resisted asking for a trade away from Minnesota for years until finally relenting.
The man is loyal, and old; and though he’s already played on three teams, uprooting to go live in a hotel with a group of new teammates in a new city in a quick late-season turnaround might not appeal to him.
We do know that talking about it doesn’t appeal to him in the slightest:
KG seemed resistant to idea of buyout. Asked for something more definitive, he cut off interview and said, "See, this is why I don't talk."
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) February 1, 2015
Garnett has a month to change his mind, as the NBA’s cut-off date for playoff-legal free agent signings is at the outset of March. We’d like slough off Garnett wasting his final playing days with a miserable Brooklyn franchise (they are reported to be after Andray Blatche, because this team is way into long-term development and not quick fixes) as no big deal, but it really would be a basketball crime of the highest order if Garnett’s last days are spent on a Nets team that nobody likes watching, one that may miss out on overcoming even a Kemba Walker-less Charlotte Hornets team for the final playoff seed.
Imagine Garnett reunited with Rajon Rondo in Dallas, giving the Mavericks a lineup 40 percent filled with guys that absolutely refuse to shoot the ball. Or as insurance in Atlanta, closer to the South Carolina home that he grew up in. Any number of contenders would be able to find room in their rotation for KG, because though he is struggling in comparison to the 18 season that came prior to his move to Brooklyn, he can still move a locker room and clean the defensive glass.
Does he want to give in and make the sort of jump that seemed like an anathema to him for so many years? After 19 and a half seasons, he’s got just a few weeks to figure that out.
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