WALTHAM — For those who may have doubted Kevin Garnett’s competitiveness as his career winds down, or believed he had grown beyond the point of considering every perceived detractor to the Celtics’ cause a mortal enemy, we bring you media day.
Not only has Garnett signed a three-year contract extension, he already is displaying his trademark focus. He was friendly on Friday because he felt comfortable among those who respect his territory and cause. For those who don’t, Garnett has few words, and that includes former teammate Ray Allen. When Allen was considering signing with the Heat, he communicated with Garnett through text messages.
Garnett assured Allen that Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers would make changes to appease the all-time leader in 3-pointers, who carried a number of issues with management into the offseason.
It was Garnett who attempted to understand Allen’s disenchantment, even though the Celtics developed into a championship contender with Allen coming off the bench and Avery Bradley in the starting lineup. And Garnett pleaded with Allen to not break up the band, especially to go to the Heat.
Allen ignored those pleas and headed south, and Garnett reacted in a way that can be viewed as juvenile and overly loyal, but is classic Garnett.
“When a guy makes a decision based on him and his family, you can’t ever get upset with that,” Garnett said. “My personal feelings, I put into it. The only thing I’ll say is I wish Ray the best and that’s where it’s at.”
When asked if he had talked with Allen since he signed with the Heat, Garnett said, “I have not. I don’t have Ray’s number anymore. I’m not trying to communicate, just trying to be honest with everybody in here. It’s not wishing him less than or whatever, it’s just what it is.
“I choose not to. That’s a choice I personally made. I’m very close to Ray. I’m close to his family. I wish nothing but the best for he and his family, but I’m just making a choice of my own.”
And that choice is to focus on those players who are here, even if that means icing Allen indefinitely, and adding more spice to a simmering rivalry.
Garnett has little concern about his reputation or image because within the Celtics’ circle, he is a central figure, respected and revered, and the opinions of those in the circle are all that concerns him.
Allen is no longer a part of that, he left on his own, breaking a bond with Garnett and Paul Pierce that had weakened as Allen’s role diminished.
While Garnett chose to publicly dismiss Allen and his decision, he took it personally because he represents the Celtics, although Garnett had little to do with Allen’s issues with the team.
“I’m focused on J.T. [Jason Terry], Courtney Lee, the new guys that are here,” Garnett said. “I wasn’t going to come here and answer a bunch of Ray Allen questions. I was going to answer it one time and then focus on what’s right here in this gym. That’s where I’m at.”
Garnett said he considered retirement but it was too difficult to walk away from what he has established in Boston. The city not only embraces him but respects his privacy. He finished last season playing so well that leaving would have meant unfinished business.
“I did give [retirement] some real thought,” he said. “With free agency, I obviously didn’t want to think about another team or nothing like that. My retirement would have obviously been a personal decision based on family. My No. 1 reason for coming back was Doc. Doc being here is huge, I enjoy playing for him. The guys. The city. The fans here are by far the best fans that I’ve been a part of. I don’t know how Danny talked me into three years, but I’m enjoying my journey here. I know it sounds lame and kind of cheesy, but doing what I love, all those put together is why I’m here.”
And as long as he’s here, Garnett is going to speak his mind.
He is going to represent the Celtics with pride and passion, and frown upon those he feels give up the opportunity to play for the Green in exchange for an environment that is unknown. So while he has few words for those who have departed, Garnett has plenty of vigor and spirit left for those who remain. And for him, they are the only ones who matter.