|04.16.09 at 2:46 pm ET|
WALTHAM – After dealing with the stunning news delivered by their head coach that Kevin Garnett has probably played his final game this season, Celtics players are making one final demand of their best defensive player and emotional leader.
“That’s where I need him to be I need him to be on the bench because if he can’t be on the floor, he can be valuable to us on the bench,” Ray Allen said. “In a lot of instances it’s like he is on the floor. I will push as hard as I possibly can because his voice over there on the bench will be just like he is in the game.”
And just before Thursday’s practice, head coach Doc Rivers assured Allen and the rest of the Celtics that Garnett will indeed be there starting Saturday afternoon at 12:30 when they open a first-round series with Chicago.
“Yeah, he will be, he will be,” Rivers said. “That’s the one thing I told him. During the playoffs, we need everybody in there, out on the floor, in the locker room and on the bench. We just hope he doesn’t get a technical.”
Garnett has often said that he’s afraid how he’ll handle himself when he can only watch. But they are all asking KG to make an exception this time because of the lift it could give during the passion-driven playoffs.
The team’s captain also feels strongly about Garnett’s value to the bench.
“It’s very important because of the way guys look at Kevin,” said Paul Pierce. “He’s an unquestioned leader of this ball club and he can help us just by being on the bench, seeing some of the things he sees out there and giving his knowledge of the game, especially to the other big guys. So I think it’ll be huge.”
Whether it’s Allen or Pierce or even coach Doc Rivers, everyone around Garnett is well aware of his dislike for being on the bench during games.
And don’t think for a second that Allen doesn’t feel for his fallen teammate who will be reduced to cheerleader.
“I’m devastated for him,” Allen said. “This is the time of year we all wait for. The excitement is in the air. This is where players are made, teams are made and legacies are cemented and for him not to be a part of this, I hurt for him.”