Commentary

What will it be, KG?

It wasn't the plan, but preserving their core could be the Celtics' best option

Updated: June 13, 2012, 1:37 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

In my mind here's how it plays out: Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers descend on Malibu this summer wearing matching black suits, skinny black ties, fedoras and Ray Ban sunglasses, then knock on Kevin Garnett's door.

"We're putting the band back together."

And like Jake Elwood trying to pitch the idea of a Blues Brothers reunion to Murph and the MagicTones (KG's offseason digs have got to be nicer than the Armada Room at the Holiday Inn), Ainge will remind Garnett that he is the backbone, the nerve center of a team that, with the key parts back, can still be a championship-caliber squad.

Then it's on Garnett to dictate how this summer will play out for the Boston Celtics.

[+] EnlargeRivers/Garnett
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesWill Doc Rivers pay a visit to Malibu this summer to ask Kevin Garnett for one more shot?

To be sure, this wasn't always Plan A. The Celtics spent the better part of the past two years carefully putting together their roster, bringing in enough talent to remain competitive, but careful to be financially responsible with the goal of preserving cap space for the 2012 summer bonanza that awaited.

This was supposed to be an offseason when the likes of Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams headlined a bountiful free-agent crop. It was supposed to be a chance for the Celtics to harvest a new core alongside team leader Rajon Rondo.

Now there's a chance that none of those elite players will be available ,and it's looking like the type of offseason that teams will be forced to overpay for the marginal remaining talent (no really, just look at this free-agent list).

This is hardly what Ainge and Rivers planned so diligently for.

So what might have been Plan B or C or D, is now Plan A. Bring back the core -- or, well, most of it -- and give this group yet another chance to obtain that elusive second title -- all while pushing pause on the future.

Yes, it's a bit ridiculous. It would be the sixth year of a three-year plan. Ainge, who has often said that he would have broken up Boston's original Big Three before they got too old, is left trying to squeeze every last drop out of his core group.

But let's be clear: This won't look exactly the same. The Big Three will almost certainly lose one of its charter members in Ray Allen. Yes, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he returns, but that's money that Boston can spend elsewhere in hopes of providing the necessary tweaks to get them over the championship-free hump of the past four seasons.

Boston could still bring back its entire starting five from the end of the 2012 regular season -- a healthy Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley will make a difference immediately -- and could benefit from trying to keep some of the same reserves as well (then there would still be room for small splurges, like potentially bringing back Jeff Green, a year after a heart ailment wiped out his 2011-12 season).

Is it ideal? No. But you can make the case that the Celtics came a mere eight minutes short of getting back to the NBA Finals this season, so there are worse options to consider -- ones that could quickly become a reality for Boston this summer.

It all hinges on Garnett.

Which is why Ainge and Rivers will have to put on a bit of a recruiting pitch if he's on the fence about his future. As Sam Cassell told ESPN Boston's Jackie MacMullan, Garnett was still pondering retirement as recently as a couple weeks ago.

[+] EnlargeKevin Garnett
Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty ImagesIt's hard to imagine Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett without Ray Allen, but next season that could be what we see.

The question is whether Garnett could ride off into the sunset with the way this season played out. Garnett delivered some incredibly inspired ball over the second half of the season and into the playoffs, revitalizing himself and the Celtics as a whole. His exploits seemingly made him one of the few elite free agents available this summer, particularly in a league devoid of big-man talent.

Forget all the noise about whether he'd be enticed by different teams. His allegiance to Rivers seemingly ensures that if Garnett returns for an 18th season, it will be in Boston.

And that would set into motion the process of keeping the band together. The alternative is far more daunting. It's about as enticing as Jake heading back to Joliet.

If Garnett elects to retire, the Celtics cannot as easily mask their deficiencies, particularly up front where the departure of Garnett would leave their frontcourt thin on established talent.

Without Garnett, you start wondering if it would behoove the Celtics to go in the complete opposite direction, potentially using their amnesty clause on (or simply trading) Paul Pierce. Blasphemy, you say? Good luck finding an alternative.

Detonating the team this summer is less than ideal with the bodies available and might force the Celtics to navigate a bit of a bridge year waiting for an opportunity to net elite talent (whether it's via in-season trade or free-agent signing next summer).

Suddenly, blowing it up is plan B. Getting the band back together should be Plan A.

Much of Boston's success the past five years has centered on Garnett. Next season -- whether he's here or not -- appears it will be no different.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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