WALTHAM, Mass. — Kevin Garnett typically looms large at the Celtics' practice facility. A 6-foot-11 future Hall of Famer cannot help but dominate the room, but on Wednesday, Garnett managed to take over the proceedings even though he was nowhere to be found.
Garnett, an unrestricted free agent, has yet to make his intentions publicly known as the opening of the free agency period in July approaches. Whether he plans to return to the Celtics, sign elsewhere or simply retire plays a significant factor for the team and its collection of free agents, which includes swingman Mickael Pietrus.
"He's the face of the franchise," Pietrus said. "If we want to win a championship, we've got to have KG. Our main focus on Sunday is going to be two letters: K-G."
Signing Garnett will become a priority after the draft for Danny Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations. As Pietrus noted, the Celtics should be a title contender in 2012-13 if Garnett returns, which could influence the personnel decisions Ainge makes this offseason. If Garnett opts not to come back, Ainge would not necessarily tank the upcoming season, but he may not be as aggressive in bringing in short-term help if winning a championship is not realistic.
In his conversations with Garnett, Ainge said he has gotten the impression that Garnett will either come back to the Celtics or retire. Ainge expects to know Garnett's intention Sunday, at which time the Celtics will commence formal negotiations or begin to move on. The Celtics have not given Garnett a deadline to express his decision.
"The sooner we can get Kevin done, the better it would be for us because we would have a sense of the direction we want to go," Ainge said. "But we don't want to rush him. We don't want to pressure him. You guys know Kevin."
Garnett's retirement could make the Celtics take the long view in Thursday's draft, whereas his return might prompt the team to focus on prospects or trades that could help the team right away. Ainge insisted that was not the case, and that the Celtics would take the best player available regardless — because, with only four players under contract for next season, the Celtics have needs at every position.
Pietrus hopes both he and Garnett are back with the Celtics next season. Over and over on Wednesday, Pietrus cited his desire to win a championship as his primary reason for wanting to remain in Boston. If Garnett were to continue his career, Pietrus believes it would be for the same reason.
"If he's coming back, he's going to try to go get that banner and then retire," Pietrus said. "It's been a great 17 years, and hopefully 19, because we look forward to signing him for two more years."
The Celtics would be satisfied to know if Garnett will be back for even one.