Speculation won't sit still
Garnett is down but curiosity is up
If you thought Game 2 between the Celtics and Bulls was intense, you should have been at the Celtics' practice facility yesterday morning. There was a fierce, one-possession one-on-one game between two regular-sized men. The rules were simple. A basket by video coordinator Brian Adams made him a winner. A defensive stop by strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo gave him the spoils.
Nearby, a limping Kevin Garnett hooted and hollered in favor of Adams, while Paul Pierce cheered for Doo. As Adams went to the hole for a lay-in hotly contested by Doo, an excited Garnett leaped, came down gingerly, and then limped. Doo, however, was a stand-up guy and called his own foul. But to Garnett's dismay, Adams missed another lay-up attempt on the next try.
Last Thursday, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Garnett was done for the season because of a right knee strain. An NBA source said Garnett has decided to hold off on bone spur surgery to see if he can make one last-ditch effort at playing in the playoffs. But judging by the way Garnett limped yesterday, it doesn't look like as though he will be coming back soon.
"If he gets healthy, he gets healthy," Rivers said. "But I don't see it. If he does, it will be phenomenal. But that's not anything I'm focused on at all."
You can't blame the ultracompetitive Garnett for not throwing in the towel with back-to-back titles on the line.
Garnett was initially expected to return, after a long hiatus, for Game 1 of the playoffs. But a source said recently that he was only "70 percent" and that he had not responded well to rehabilitation of late. After watching him struggle to move during a workout last Thursday, Rivers said Garnett was done for the season and that separate bone spur surgery was also needed. He was expected to pick a surgery date soon.
But now this seems more like a Willis Reed day-to-day situation. Garnett's teammates have become comfortable with the notion that they are more likely to see him in a suit during games than wearing No. 5.
"Honestly, I've programmed in my mind that he's not coming back because he's doing what he has to do to try to get himself better," Ray Allen said. "The worst-case scenario is that he's not coming back. So we have to plan that way."
Said Kendrick Perkins: "They just say he's out, so I just know he's out. There is nothing else. I just know he's out. If he does make a miraculous comeback, that would be cool for us."
A jittery Garnett sat on the bench for the first half of the Game 1 loss. He was encouraging to teammates and voiced recommendations to the floor during play and during timeouts. But when the second half came, Garnett was not back on the pine.
"Watching the game from the bench was tough for him," Allen said. "If it was us, if he needed to do some things back [in the training room], I couldn't tell you."
Garnett, surprisingly, was back on the bench last night. The sight of him surely made the fans at TD Banknorth Garden wonder whether they will see him again this season in his mammoth adidas instead of shiny dress shoes. And just the sight of Garnett in practice, moving even in slow, limping fashion, the past two days has caused a media storm and brought back questions about a miracle return that Rivers thought he silenced after Game 1.
When asked if the Garnett speculation has been a distraction, Rivers said, "No. Not really. But the reason that I [said he wasn't coming back] the other night is so it wouldn't be. We just lost a game and we're talking about a guy in a three-piece suit that didn't look good in it. I was thinking, 'That's silly.' "
Based on how Garnett has looked the past two days, the video guy might be able to give the Celtics more. Even so, until the fat lady sings, the Celtics, their fans, and lots of media will keep wondering if Garnett's catch-phrase - "Anything is possible" - can become a reality.
"It's ultimately the doctor's decision," Rivers said. "It really is. And until they say go, he can't go. And they don't think anything is going to happen. Again, it's not a structural injury, like I've said earlier. You never know."
Marc J. Spears can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org