In many ways, coming back to TD Garden was surreal and odd for Kevin Garnett Friday afternoon.
It was the first time the 38-year-old future hall of famer has been back to Boston since the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo away to the Dallas Mavericks. And it might be the last time he gets a standing ovation from the Garden crowd that had a love affair with his game for six unforgettable seasons in Celtic green.
After Garnett’s Nets managed to escape with a 109-107 win over the Celtics, Garnett reflected on playing a Boston team that no longer has any members of the 2008 championship squad.
“I’ve been getting a lot of ‘Rest in peace’ texts and stuff, so I had to change my number,” Garnett said. “It’s all good, though. We’re infinite. Once you win once, you win forever.”
Garnett didn’t have a big role in Brooklyn’s win. He had just six points and four rebounds in 17 minutes and didn’t play the final 17 minutes in which the Nets rallied from a 12-point deficit to win.
Before Friday’s game, he received a standing ovation in the dark from the fans who came out to see him play in Boston for perhaps the last time in his career.
“It’s always love here,” said Garnett. “It’s always an appreciation that I can never give back, other than the salute. Winning is infinite. And I’ll always have that special relationship with this city.”
Garnett admitted that he has indeed given some thought to the end of the road coming at the end of this season and that Friday might have been his swan song in Boston.
“At this stage it’s always somewhere lurking in the back, probably whether I admit it or not,” Garnett said. “But, if I’m being truthful with you, sometimes [I do think about it]. Seeing Paul [Pierce] the other day, he was in town to play the Knicks and we had a conversation. So, at this stage, we know that things are not taken for granted, but more appreciated. It crosses [my mind], I wouldn’t lie about that.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens missed Kevin Garnett’s time in Boston by mere days in the summer of 2013, when Paul Pierce and Garnett were dealt to Brooklyn while Stevens was hired to take over for Doc Rivers. Stevens doesn’t think Garnett is ready to hang up the laces at the end of the season.
“My general thought is that he looks like he has too much energy to retire,” Stevens said. “Whether it’s talking to our players, talking to our bench, talking to his teammates — the passion which he brings to the game is top-notch.
“And I think you can learn a lot from a guy like that if you’re a young guy that’s never been around him. And you know, I told Jae Crowder this when Garnett got introduced and everybody went nuts as they should: If you play the right way here, people appreciate it. And, obviously, he did that and he led others to do that.”
Garnett was pressed about Rondo and whether – deep down – he was surprised the guard was traded out of Boston.
“Little bit. Little bit. But nothing surprises me after Michael Jordan moving to different teams, Shaq moving to different teams,” said Garnett. “Players in the history going to different teams. I guess at that point, it’s just a matter of when and where.
“It’s very weird. I just saw [Celtics trainer] Ed Lacerte in the locker room and he told me it was kind of bittersweet. Obviously, I’ve been in contact with Rondo since [the trade], just for his well-being. I kind of stay in touch with all the guys. … Obviously, we all stay in touch, just caring about his well-being. I’m just glad everything worked out.”
How does Garnett think Rondo will do in Dallas?
“What do I expect from him? To be himself,” Garnett said. “Obviously, he has all the players, bit more of a firm base, little more of a championship base around him. And I see him adapting to that with no problem. I’ve watched him play, I’ve seen him getting up on [defense] like old times. He’s talking, being himself. I expect great things out of him. I wish him the best.”