I love Kevin Garnett. I can’t stress it enough. For so many different reasons, the Big Ticket may go down as my favorite Celtic of all time, and he was only in Boston for six years.
But as Garnett’s career winds down, the playoff seasons grow shorter, retirement approaches, and he prepares to have his number immortalized in green for all eternity, with that comes the realization that his long-standing gripe with long-time teammate Ray Allen must soon end.
The Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on Monday that Garnett and Allen haven’t spoken since the latter left Boston two years ago. Allen told the paper he hasn’t tried, but who could fault him?
When Allen chose less money in free agency for a better chance of winning with the enemy Heat following the Celtics’ 2011-12 elimination in the Eastern Conference Finals to – that’s right – Miami, he crushed a dream.
Even with Doc Rivers at the helm and teammates Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo still close by, Garnett knew Boston’s hopes of securing Banner 18 departed right along with its three-point specialist. The future Hall of Famer put on a strong face, continued to tell us he bled green, and all but proclaimed Allen dead to him.
Garnett said he lost his old buddy’s number. He gave him the cold shoulder the first time the two squared off as new opponents. He went out of his way to avoid speaking his name. Out of sight, out of mind.
KG took this loss more personally than the 2010 NBA Finals defeat to the Lakers. So did the fans, so much so that the man affectionately known as “Jesus” still gets booed every time he touches the ball in front of a C’s supporter – even after Rivers left in a far less tasteful manner and received multiple standing ovations upon his return to the Garden.
Garnett’s loyalty resonated, all the more so after he expressed a hesitancy to chase another title this season if it meant leaving Boston. The place he once had to be convinced to play in had become home. It was Pierce, the captain of more than a decade, who pushed his friend to make the move to Brooklyn.
People say time heals all wounds. Not so for Garnett, not yet.
Even as a Net, he still sees red when he lays his eyes on Allen. With all the curses he spews on the court in a given game, you can only imagine the colorful words he mutters to himself when he feels betrayed.
Allen won a second championship in his first year in Miami. In fact, he was single-handedly responsible for extending the series against San Antonio in the face of elimination with a miraculous game-tying shot from beyond the arc with 5.2 seconds to play in Game 6. Minutes later, the Heat had an overtime win.
With Miami leading two-games-to-none in its second-round matchup with Brooklyn, the veteran is setting himself up nicely to capture a third ring this season.
Garnett’s time with the Larry O’Brien trophy is likely over. His Nets are old, hurt, and in over their heads. That won’t be any different a year from now.
In Boston, however, Banner 17 never would have occurred had Garnett and Allen not been united. To get to the top of the mountain, they needed Rivers’ player management skills, Pierce’s penchant for seizing the moment, Garnett’s over-the-top emotion and unmatched leadership, and Allen’s smooth scoring finesse. They all needed each other. In a league filled with selfish play, rare selflessness guided their journey.
One day, the 2007-08 Celtics will be brought together again and celebrated for their previously unfathomable achievement.
I hope that after Garnett’s playing days are over and the professional rivalries subside, the personal ones will too.
The numbers 34 and 5 are undoubtedly heading to the rafters in the years to come. So, too, might 20. Even Danny Ainge could be honored for his successes with the organization. If all those men aren’t alongside one another to honor the moment, it would be a shame. It would be missing something. It might even take a little something away from the magic that took place so many years earlier.
Garnett and Allen deserve better. Selfishly, so do the fans.
But it all starts with Garnett growing up.
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