Kevin Garnett Still Leader for Celtics But May Not Be All-Star Anymore

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Kevin Garnett Still Leader for Celtics But May Not Be All-Star Anymore Death, taxes and Kevin Garnett taking the floor in the NBA All-Star Game — is anything in life more inevitable? The answer used to be no, but with Garnett getting on in years and preparing to begin his 16th season in the NBA, little is certain anymore. Is Kevin Garnett still an All-Star?

If he is, then the Celtics will be dangerous next year and possibly beyond.

If he's not, then it raises all sorts of questions about the future of the franchise.

At the age of 34, Garnett is limping into the 2010-11 season, almost literally. He's battled knee injuries throughout his last two years in a Celtics uniform — a sprained right knee that kept him out of the playoffs in 2009, and a hyperextension that forced him to miss considerable time this past season.

These things happen. After 15 years, 1,124 games and an unbelievable 41,695 minutes in the NBA, the mileage is bound to catch up to you.

KG has done everything he can, though, to remain a top-level player throughout the hardship he's endured. He's adapted his game to become a better passer, worked on his jump shot and shown versatility defensively on both the high and low post.

He's not young, exciting or explosive. But he's getting the job done.

That's a mighty subdued way to describe a guy who made the All-Star team every year this decade. He used to be a living legend in Minnesota, and he was an MVP candidate immediately upon his 2007 arrival in Boston.

He played in his 13th All-Star Game last February, but it might have been his last.

Garnett obviously isn't the same player anymore. The Celtics will have to be careful with his minutes next season, making sure not to put him through any undue wear or tear.

The C's have plenty of backup plans in mind. Brad Miller is rumored to be a candidate to back up the Celtics' bigs next season, and Luke Harangody, their second-round pick out of Notre Dame this summer, figures to make the team and get some playing time as well.

KG is still the ringleader of all the Celtic bigs, but he's not the star he once was. Much like with Shaquille O'Neal in Cleveland, Garnett needs to realize he's a "high-level role player" in Boston.

Garnett will still give the Celtics a veteran presence, and he'll still carry the load defensively for Doc Rivers. And that's probably about it.

Perhaps it's OK that he doesn't have the same basketball celebrity status of a LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. He's going to be a leader to the Celtics both on the floor and in the locker room. Then, come playoff time, he's going to really turn it on. That's all the C's need.

There are plenty of All-Stars on the rise, especially in the up-and-coming Eastern Conference. There's Derrick Rose in Chicago, David Lee in New York and a trio of promising young Atlanta Hawks (headlined by Al Horford) who are turning the East upside down.

Garnett is the odd man out. But for him, that's not a problem — it's never been about ego or validation with him. It's just about winning.

So no, Kevin Garnett is probably not an All-Star again next season. But the Celtics, who live and die with a balanced ensemble cast, may not need him to be.

As long as the Celtics return to the Finals again next season, all individual accolades (and lack thereof) will be forgotten. No matter what happens, no one in Boston will ever forget Kevin Garnett or the impact he had on the Celtics.

NESN.com will answer one Celtics question every day in July.

Sunday, July 4: How high is Rajon Rondo's ceiling?

Tuesday, July 6: Will Kendrick Perkins be back and healthy?

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