“I just want to say that I love my situation here,” Garnett said following a decisive win over the Lakers two weeks ago. “I bleed green. I’m going to continue to do that. If it’s up to me, then I’m going to retire a Celtic. I just want everybody to know that.”
Garnett has delivered a version of that message numerous times over the past month as injuries have mounted and trade talk has heated up for the Celtics. With reports swirling about the Nuggets and Clippers leading the charge of teams trying to acquire the 18th-year veteran before Thursday’s trade deadline, Garnett has taken every opportunity to insist that he is going nowhere if it is up to him.
And it is.
Garnett maintains control over his fate thanks to his no-trade clause, which was worked into his contract when he took a sizable hometown discount last summer to stay in Boston. The 36-year-old big man accepted a three-year deal worth roughly $12 million per season, almost $10 million less than he made in the final season of his previous contract. Some other team probably would have offered him more money, had he wanted to leave, but he did not. For that, a no-trade clause was a small price to pay.
So far, Garnett has more than lived up to his deal. He remains one of the top defensive big men in the game and still possesses one of the most automatic mid-range jump shots around. His plus-minus and efficiency ratings continue to suggest that the Celtics are a much better team with him on the floor, and every single one of his teammates would still walk in front of a bus for him. (Celtics coach Doc Rivers would prefer they do not, obviously — Boston cannot afford to lose any more bodies.)
Impact players on affordable contracts are tough to find, though, and being one, Garnett is in high demand. This was predictable as soon as Garnett accepted that well-below market value contract last offseason. It was a great deal for the Celtics, and every other team realized that if they could somehow acquire Garnett, it would be a great deal for them, too. Now they are trying to pry away that contract. They are trying really, really hard, if multiple reports are to be believed.
If any offers have been made, however, Garnett has shot them all down. He has repeated his declaration from earlier this month, most recently at All-Star festivities last weekend, that he will wield his veto power over any deal. He bleeds green. He wants to retire a Celtic. All that.
Such loyalty plays very well with one portion of the Celtics’ fan base. Most fans could not love Garnett more for his desire to stay, don the shamrock and bark at the crowd at TD Garden. Yet another, less vocal, portion seems troubled by Garnett’s stance. No, Garnett is not demanding a trade to the locale of his choosing, as Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and numerous other stars have. But in refusing any trade, Garnett is hampering the Celtics’ efforts to rebuild and move on. From that viewpoint, Garnett’s inflexibility is holding his team hostage as well, albeit in a very different way.
Loyal or stubborn, however, Garnett remains entitled to what he has. Only a handful of proven champions have no-trade clauses, and none among them except Tim Duncan took as drastic a discount as Garnett did. That gesture enabled the Celtics to be much more aggressive in building a deeper team, one that has shown its mettle by winning eight of nine since injuries ransacked the roster. The Celtics were able to build a better all-around team thanks to Garnett. If he wants to see the result through to the end, he has earned that right.