Asked how he'll approach this weekend's NBA All-Star Game, especially after playing an exhausting 102 minutes in his last four games, Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett took everybody by surprise when he mentioned mid-sentence that his 15th appearance would be his last.
"For it being my last," said Garnett, "I got my family coming down."
"This is definitely my last All-Star Game," he repeated.
Garnett has two years and $23.5 million remaining on his contract after this season, and considering he was voted a starter at age 36, what's to stop him from making the roster in either of his next two seasons?
"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."
Despite signing a three-year extension with the Celtics this past offseason, Garnett repeatedly has dropped hints that any season could be his last, but this is the first time this year he's alluded to it so clearly.
Of course, it's important not to jump to the retirement conclusion. Garnett could also be acknowledging that among infinite possibilities a) another All-Star appearance at age 37 is far from guaranteed or b) he would decline an invitation in future seasons. Either way, he'll enjoy this All-Star Game like he did the first 14.
"The All-Star experience for me is more for friends and fam," said KG, who won All-Star Game MVP honors in 2003. "You've always got that wild-ass uncle who shows his ass. You've always got that friend that you have to pull to the side and have that conversation. It's no different for me. It's a fun time."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave Garnett the option of sitting out the 71-69 win over the Bulls, but he refused.
"I should have took that [expletive]," said Garnett, who notched his 15th double-double of the season — and sixth in the C's recent 8-1 stretch — with 12 points and 11 rebounds in just 26 minutes against Chicago. "But I've seen everybody playing through everything, and I'm no different from that. Paul [Pierce] is tired, everybody's tired, and no one's full of energy right now, so I felt like that was unfair.
"If he wasn't going to give everyone the night off, then that wasn't an option. So, I just came out and gave what I could. I thought I played hard, like always. I started off the game pretty ecstatic, had to get my legs under me a little bit. No one in this league at this point in the season is playing 100 percent — everybody, me included, and guys in this locker locker room and the other locker room — so just fight through it and play."
But for how long? Only Garnett knows the answer to that question.