By Ben Golliver
The NBA world began converging on Houston for 2013 All-Star Weekend on Thursday, but before the festivities could even begin one of the Eastern Conference's starters was already declaring this would be his final go-round at the NBA's midseason carnival.
"For it being my last," said Garnett, "I got my family coming down."
"This is definitely my last All-Star Game," he repeated.
"Y'all don't know what I know," he said. "So, let's put it like this: I'm more than grateful for going, but I'm not going to act like I've got more All-Star Games in me, so I'm actually going to enjoy this one with some friends and family."
Garnett was voted in as a starter for the Eastern Conference by a fan vote. He was one of three "frontcourt players" selected in the new balloting format. He will be making his 15th All-Star Game appearance in his 18-year NBA career.
These comments are worth an arched eyebrow. Garnett, 36, signed a three-year contract worth a reported $36 million last summer. That deal will not conclude until after the 2014-15 season, giving him at least two more shots at an All-Star Game appearance. This season, Garnett is averaging 15.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
How to explain these definitive comments given the time left on his current deal? The list of options seems fairly limited. Here are some totally speculative options: He could be hinting at retirement after this season; he could be hinting at as-yet-undisclosed problems; he could be announcing his intentions to decline all future All-Star Game selections; he could be predicting that he won't play well enough to earn selections over the next few years; he could be guessing that he will be squeezed off the 2014 and 2015 teams just as he was in 2012.
It's worth noting an NBA.com report from May 2012 which suggested that Garnett was torn about coming back to the Celtics for the 2012-13 season and that he was considering retirement after the 2011-12 season, which ended in the Eastern Conference finals.
But at least one league source who knows Garnett well thinks a proud, strong exit and, as they say in show biz, a chance to leave 'em wanting more might be his plan. "I think that's what we've been seeing in these playoffs," the friend of Garnett said. "The way he's been playing, it's like he wants to go out on his terms."
This season hasn't exactly been ideal for the Celtics, who have suffered season-ending injuries to All-Star guard Rajon Rondo, rookie forward Jared Sullinger and guard Leandro Barbosa. The Celtics sit at 28-24 entering the All-Star break, good for seventh in the Eastern Conference. Their hopes of another deep playoff push seemed to evaporate with the loss of Rondo and it's possible a player in Garnett's shoes wouldn't be interested in coming back for anything except true contention.
For now, it's not clear what Garnett meant, but he's sure to answer approximately one zillion questions about his comments over the next 72 hours in Texas. Video via YouTube user Ben Rohrbach