|Irish Coffee: Celtics or bust for Kevin Garnett||06.11.12 at 1:30 pm ET|
Let’s get this out of the way: Every NBA team would like to sign Kevin Garnett away from the Celtics.
While the Miami Herald would have you believe “Garnett fades away in the biggest moment” — without mention of his Game 7 first-half foul trouble — the fact is he changed the culture of the C’s organization and carried them within a game of the 2012 NBA finals at the age of 36, and any team would welcome that presence into their locker room. Celtics coach Doc Rivers reminds us of this every time somebody calls Garnett a dirty player.
“He’s been everything for my career, just his locker room presence, his desire, his determination, his leadership,” C’s captain Paul Pierce told reporters on Saturday night. “I’ve said before, when Kevin first got here, he really changed the culture of everything we did around here, from the practice habits to the on-court discipline. He made everybody accountable, from the ballboys to the chefs to the guy who flew the plane. Everybody was accountable. It was just tremendous to have him around, just the culture he brought.
“It would be great for me to end my career with Kevin,” he added. “I have a couple of years left, and who knows what his future is going to bring. Hopefully, management can do something to bring him back, maybe add some pieces to this team that we need to get us over the top. If not, it’s been a tremendous ride.”
No wonder recent reports name the Spurs and Nets as suitors. No kidding. You don’t need to tell us Rosie O’Donnell is interested in Ben & Jerry’s free cone day. Let’s throw the other 28 teams in the mix while we’re at it.
Eliminate 14 teams off the bat. Does anyone really think Garnett is leaving Boston to finish his career rebuilding a lottery team? Cross off another eight playoff teams that — barring a significant increase of the $58.0444 million salary cap — enter the summer over the limit (Bulls, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Knicks, Lakers, Magic, Thunder), regardless of their amnesty options. He’s not going elsewhere for the $3 or $5 million mid-level exception.
In addition to the Celtics, that leaves the Clippers, Jazz, Mavericks, Nuggets, Pacers, 76ers and Spurs as potential destinations. Quickly, let’s run through the salary cap situation for those seven teams.
- Clippers: When Mo Williams picks up his $8.5 million option, the Clippers will reach the cap, but they could turn around and amnesty him to open up $9 million in wiggle room. They already have $17.6 million dedicated to their starting power forward (Blake Griffin) and center (DeAndre Jordan), so yeah.
- Jazz: Utah has no real amnesty option, only $6 million in cap space and $32.7 million dedicated to the logjam of young bigs that is Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Besides, can you imagine how Garnett’s vocabulary would go over in Salt Lake City?
- Mavericks: Once Mark Cuban reaches a buyout agreement with Lamar Odom and uses his amnesty clause on either Shawn Marion or Brendan Haywood (both $8.4 million), he’ll have plenty of money to spend, most of which will be dedicated to signing Deron Williams and bidding for Dwight Howard.
- Nuggets: Theoretically, Denver could dedicate all of its $9 million in cap space to Garnett, but contract extension negotiations with JaVale McGee complicate their financial situation further.
- Pacers: With $33 million dedicated to just six players in 2012-13, Larry Bird & Co. have plenty of cap room, but they also have to match qualifying offers for both Roy Hibbert and George Hill this summer. Besides, unless someone pries Hibbert away, the Pacers have a starting center and power forward (David West).
- 76ers: All signs point to Elton Brand exercising his $18.2 million option, which makes him either a great amnesty candidate or an attractive expiring contract in trade talks. Conversely, Louis Williams will likely decline his $6.4 million option. As a result, the Sixers either have plenty of money to spend or none at all. Either way, does anyone expect Garnett to spurn the C’s for their biggest division rival?
- Spurs: San Antonio also has about $9 million in cap space, but that’s before they sign an unrestricted free agent by the name of Tim Duncan, who has spent all 15 years of his career on the Spurs, plays the same position as Garnett and — oh, by the way — despises the Celtics center, according to Sports Illustrated.
Meanwhile, with just $32.2 million dedicated to the 2012-13 roster, the Celtics have more cap space than any other playoff team. They also own Garnett’s Bird Rights, which means Danny Ainge could pay him $22.26 million if he wanted. More likely, Garnett would command a contract somewhere in the vicinity of two years and $25-30 million, which would effectively eliminate the Clippers, Jazz, Nuggets and Spurs from the running.
None of this even accounts for Garnett’s kinship with Rivers or his propensity towards undying loyalty, two more reasons to believe with near certainty that the only uniform he would wear next season is a green and white one.
Then again, the news of Garnett’s retirement could break at any minute, making this debate a moot point.
(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)