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Sports Then and Now

Kevin Garnett Staying in Boston

Posted on June 30, 2012 by Brendan Tyman

Kevin Garnett's return gives the Boston Celtics a chance to upend LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

The Boston Celtics took a major step in continuing the quest for their 18th championship with the return of Kevin Garnett. Garnett agreed to a three-year contract worth $34 million according to Marc Spears of Yahoo.

Garnett’s five-year extension expired after the 2011-’12 season when the Celtics were eliminated by the eventual champion, Miami Heat, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. In the final minute when the Heat held an insurmountable lead, Garnett came off the court and embraced head coach Doc Rivers. Rivers nodded his head after Garnett said something to him.

It was unclear whether Garnett would come back to Boston when he became a free agent on July 1st. There were several reports that he would either sign with the Celtics or retire.

The 36-year-old 7-footer enjoyed a resurgence in the second half of the 2011-’12 season and led the Celtics from a mediocre status team to a championship contender in the postseason. He averaged 19.2 points and 10.3 rebounds in the postseason and was the Celtic’s only legitimate center in their unexpected run.

If the Celtics continue to utilize Garnett at the “5” position, this would give them the option of having Garnett force other teams’ big men to defend the outside while the paint opens for Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce to drive to the net.

While many people thought the Celtics were too old to compete with teams like the Chicago Bulls or the Heat in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics nearly made the Finals with a depleted roster. Since Derrick Rose tore his ACL and could be out for the start of 2012-’13, the constant drama surrounding the New York Knicks, and a weak free agent class, the Celtics should be able to compete next season by bringing back their own marquee free agents.

Jared Sullinger should be able to help Garnett if he can stay healthy. Last year, the Celtics just had Garnett to go to in the post. The Celtics will want to keep Garnett’s minutes around 30. If the Celtics can provide frontcourt depth, they could rely less on an aging Garnett.

The only downside to this deal is the length, but Garnett took a hometown discount to remain with the Celtics. Since the Celtics are paying Garnett roughly around $11 million, this gives Danny Ainge and the front office the flexibility to sign Ray Allen for more money. The Heat are going to make a strong push for Allen, but they can only offer $3 million. Meanwhile the Celtics could use $5-8 million on him. While Allen dealt with on-court issues last year with Rondo, the off-court concerns regarding his family (Allen’s son has Type-1 diabetes and Boston is known to have among the best hospital care) could supersede Allen’s ego.

The luxury tax is set at $70 million and the Celtics have about $44 million committed to their cap for seven players (Sullinger and Fab Melo’s deals are based on where they were drafted). If the Celtics can stay below the luxury tax, they will be able to use both the mid-level exception at $5 million and a $1.975 million bi-annual exception. The Celtics would only be able to offer a player $3 million (they used this on Chris Wilcox last year) if they go above the tax before completing their roster. The Celtics could use the rest of their money on a combination of Allen, Jeff Green, and possibly Brandon Bass. It would not be surprising if Bass is not back with the Celtics. He may want close to $7 million which is similar to what Glen Davis received from the Orlando Magic. Greg Stiemsma was given a qualifying offer which makes him a restricted free agent at $1 million. They could acquire O.J. Mayo, but Mayo has character concerns (remember he got into a fistfight with former Celtic Tony Allen on the team plane) and his numbers have declined over the past couple of seasons compared to his first two seasons.

Overall, Garnett’s contract works out for both sides. Garnett will give the Celtics a presence on both ends of the court that will be a mismatch for many teams in the league. The Celtics can still compete with teams like the Heat and Bulls in the Eastern Conference even with an “older” player like Garnett.

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