Kevin Garnett told the Celtics that he would let them know if he would return or retire by Saturday, the day before the start of the free-agent negotiating period. And he is a man of his word: The Boston Herald reported that the 36-year-old big man has informed the team that he will be back next season. The deal will be for three years and $34 million, according to Yahoo! Sports, though it will be interesting to see if some of that third year is nonguaranteed.
The deal is not without some risk for Boston, given his age, 50,000 minutes of mileage and the inclusion of a third year, which would take Garnett’s contract one year beyond the 34-year-old Paul Pierce’s current (and presumed final) deal. But the Celtics’ cap sheet is clean enough that they could make themselves players in free agency each summer, including this one, without much of a problem. Also: Garnett, even after a 2009 right-knee injury that took something out of him, is still one of the most valuable players in the league. He’s so good that you could easily make the argument that he is this summer’s best free-agent big man. The only other candidates are Indiana’s Roy Hibbert, San Antonio’s Tim Duncan and Orlando’s Ryan Anderson, none of whom are expected to switch teams.
Boston has looked around the free-agency landscape and decided that potentially standing pat while tweaking on the fringes and remaining flexible enough to change course on a moment’s notice is the best way to go. That makes sense, especially considering Garnett’s effectiveness. But getting him back at this price also allows the Celtics to proceed in two different ways, including a path that would involve staying over the cap and using the full mid-level exception instead of the smaller one available to teams with payrolls that cross a certain level.