Kevin Garnett & Paul Pierce Should Be Anything But Nets In 2014-15
When the final buzzer sounded on Wednesday night in Miami, the Heat were on the good end of a 96-94 win in Game 5 of their playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets. With the win, the Heat won their second-round series four games to one and knocked the Nets out of the playoffs. The victory was probably even more sweet for two-timing defending NBA champion LeBron James because it may also have ended the career of not one, but two of his former tormentors, ex-Celtics Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
During his time in Cleveland, the Celtics would routinely frustrate and bottle up James with Pierce providing the defense and Garnett getting his back and offering loud (and no doubt offensive) vocal support. James and his Cavaliers were bounced by Boston twice in the Eastern Conference Semifinals (2007-08 and 2009-10) with the second of those losses likely causing the King to depart from Cleveland and form the “Big Three” in South Beach.
"When I was in Cleveland, they were a hump that I couldn't get over," James told reporters in Miami after the Heat won Game 5. "I knew from that point that I needed some help…And for me to be in this position today, those guys challenged me. They helped me personally become the player that I am today, and they helped our team become the team that we are today, because they challenged you in so many facets."
Now that the tables have turned, it’s likely going to be Garnett and Pierce who will be doing the departing – they certainly should.
Pierce, 36, is going to be an unrestricted free agent this summer and he has already acknowledged that he only has one or two more years "at most" left in his NBA career. He’s definitely lost a step and is no longer the elite scorer that he once was, but the Kansas product can still play decent defense and shoot the ball accurately from long range. A veteran swingman with those sorts of skills is the perfect kind of guy to put a contending team over the top, but it should be obvious at this point that Brooklyn simply isn’t a contender no matter what Jay Z and owner Mikhail Prokorhov would like you to believe.
If he does want to keep playing, Pierce should resign himself to taking less money and go to a contender like the Clippers, Thunder, Warriors or Pacers, all clubs that could use his veteran leadership and experience. If not, the career Celtic could return to Boston in some sort of player/coach role, an idea he has discussed in the past.
“Yeah, why not?" Pierce said about the possibility of being a Celtic again. "Maybe as a player, maybe as a coach. Who knows what the future holds? Who knows? I may be working for [Celtics owner] Wyc Grousbeck or Danny Ainge."
Garnett is another story.
A surefire first-ballot Hall of Fame player, KG was a shadow of himself for much of the season and he completely bottomed out in the playoffs. In the Miami series, Garnett averaged just 4.8 points on under five field goal attempts per game. Although he’s under contract for next season, Garnett is turning 38 on Monday and he has all the money in the world after playing in the league for 18 seasons, leaving him no reason to play for anything less than a championship. The “Big Ticket” certainly won’t be cashing in with a ring in Brooklyn next year – whether he could contribute or not – and other teams have little incentive to trade for him after the way he looked this season.
Garnett did not speak after the game so there’s no way to know what he is thinking, but it certainly seems possible that Game 5 may have been his final NBA appearance.
For a guy who has averaged almost 18 points, 10 rebounds, four rebounds and a steal and a block per game in his career, it would only seem appropriate to go out with his head held high. If he comes back for another year in Brooklyn, that may no longer be possible.
Evan Bleier is a freelance writer based out of wherever he can plug in his laptop. You can send him questions, comments and Buffalo wing suggestions @itishowitis or "like" CraveOnline Sports on Facebook