- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is the fifth installment of our daily Nets player-by-player breakdown, with an emphasis on what’s to come for next season.
KEVIN GARNETT, POWER FORWARD/CENTER
Year in review: Like with Paul Pierce, it was a year of adjustment for Kevin Garnett. KG’s transition to a new team, though, was arguably more difficult than Pierce’s. It was difficult for Garnett to find any rhythm this past season, averaging 6.5 points and 6.6 rebounds. The then 37-year-old was under a strict minutes restriction and averaged a career-low 20.5 minutes a game so that he could have something left in the tank in the postseason. He only played in 54 games, missing 19 straight games late in the season due to a back injury.
But while he may not have had the kind of impact he wanted on the court, Garnett’s value came off the court. He helped Jason Kidd keep the Nets from fraying during a tumultuous 10-21 start and repeatedly reiterated his support for the rookie head coach despite the rocky start. And he was a major driving force in leading the Nets’ turnaround after Jan. 1. He quickly became a team leader, like many expected, after the blockbuster trade and helped mentor younger big men like Mason Plumlee.
In the playoffs, Garnett delivered possibly his two best games of the season in Games 6 and 7 of the first round when the Nets were facing elimination against Toronto. He scored 13 points in Game 6 and added 12 points and 11 rebounds in Game 7. Against Miami, though, Garnett scored in double figures just once -- in Game 3 -- and averaged 4.8 points and 7.6 rebounds in the series.
Role moving forward: If Garnett, 38, opts to return and play another season, he likely could average around 18 minutes a game and start at power forward or center depending on Brook Lopez’s status. Garnett could come off the bench as well depending on what Kidd has planned. Garnett’s greatest value, though, is in his leadership and experience. He can mentor Plumlee and Lopez and provide experience when the Nets need it in 18-to-27 minutes per game during the playoffs.
Contract status: Garnett has one year left on his contract worth $12 million.
What they’re saying:
“It’s a fair question,” Kidd said when asked how much Garnett’s game not being where it used to be might weigh on his decision. “We don’t have the luxury of being able to do this forever. He’s done it for a long time at a very high level and the biggest thing and concerns that I’ve talked to him about is you don’t want to leave with someone carrying you off the court. And that’s fair for him.
“I mean it’s 19 or 20 years that he’ll be playing and also being judged on what you’ve done or some people holding you to where if you were 25, which can be unfair at times. But that’s just part of the gig. So he’s got to make a decision, but the big thing is we want him back because we understand the importance that he brings to this franchise.”
Should they bring him back? There are several reasons why Garnett could return or retire. If Garnett wants to continue playing and believes the Nets can contend again in the East, yes, the Nets should bring him back. Sure, Garnett might be just an 18-to-20 minute a night player now. But his value is his presence in the locker room and on the bench. He commands respect from his teammates and opponents. And if he returns, Pierce could return as well. Should both stay, that means both believe they still can do some damage with the Nets’ core of Deron Williams, Lopez and Joe Johnson. As of now, the Nets are unsure what Garnett will decide to do. KG has plenty of time to make up his mind.