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Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett in the final moments of Game 7 against the Heat.Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge spoke with free-agent center Kevin Garnett last week, but said no decision on his future is imminent and that leaves Boston's offseason plan in a state of uncertainty with the new league year approaching on July 1.
Despite a strong finish to his 17th season in the league, the 36-year-old Garnett is pondering retirement and needs time to make a decision about his basketball future.
"Kevin and I had a good conversation last week and the conversation was mostly on how he needs time before he makes that decision," Ainge said during an in-studio appearance Wednesday afternoon on Boston sports radio WEEI (93.7 FM). "I think we’ll talk within the next week, but I'm not so sure that’s a decision day for him. He may want to wait and see what sort of team we have. I'm not sure.
“I know that he wants to come back, I know he likes Boston and I know he loves playing for (coach) Doc (Rivers). He loves everything about the team and the city and so forth. I think that his decision will be, 'Do I really want to play? Or do I not want to play.'"
If Garnett needs additional time for a decision, it puts Boston in a tough spot with both the NBA draft approaching later this month and cap space tied up in holds for the likes of Garnett and Ray Allen when free agency opens in early July.
"It is complicated and the timing is complicated. Juggling all these different scenarios is difficult," said Ainge. "But the reality is that, on July 1, Kevin Garnett is on our books for $21 million until we either sign him to a new contract, or renounce him, which means we can’t re-sign him. Otherwise, it really limits our cap space."
Ainge admitted that renouncing Garnett -- or any of Boston's big-name free agents like Allen, Brandon Bass, or Jeff Green -- is unlikely. Ainge hinted that re-signing the team's own free agents, particularly with a slim pool of available bodies on the open market, might be this team's best approach this offseason.
But it all starts with Garnett, and Ainge understands why he is weighing the decision to possibly walk away.
"KG has said over and over again, he doesn't want to go out not being a significant player. He doesn’t want to be eaten alive by new young players. And you can see his will," said Ainge. "But, at the same time, I don’t think people realize how hard it is for him to get ready to play. It’s really draining for guys that age, to just prepare to play -- two or three hours' worth of treatment, stretching. The days are different than when you are 25 or 30 and you just sort of wake up from your nap and show up to the gym and play. The wear and tear. It’s what you eat, how you live, it is a season-long thing, and it’s much more exhausting at that age."
Ainge acknowledged that Garnett could sign elsewhere if he decides to return next season, but echoed the prevailing notion that he will likely be back in Boston if he decides to play another year.
"I don’t think that’s what he wants to do, but it is a possibility, sure," Ainge said when asked about Garnett playing for another team. "I didn’t get that feeling, but he definitely has that option. Who knows what happens over the course of time? I hope that he wants to come back. That’s sort of been the indication that, if he’s going to play, that he would like to come back to Boston. That’s where we are right now."
To close out the multi-segment interview, the conversation circled back to Garnett. Ainge reiterated that he isn't sure when he'll have a decision from Garnett and noted, "I don't really want to push Kevin ... right now I'm letting him get back to me and hopefully he'll do that soon."
But pressed on how the Celtics really need an answer by July 1 in order to know how to attack free agency, Ainge acknowledged that Garnett is likely aware of that.
"(Garnett) doesn't want to (hinder Boston's offseason plan)," said Ainge. "He's not looking to do that. Kevin is a team guy. The last thing he wants to do is put us in a tough position. Hopefully he wants to come back."