WALTHAM Danny Ainge knew that the Boston Celtics would have stiff competition this summer for Kevin Garnett's services, the stiffest challenger being Father Time.
In his multiple conversations with Garnett since the C's season ended, Ainge said he has been given a sense that Garnett's decision will be between a return to Boston for an 18th NBA season, or retirement.
Because Garnett is eligible for an extension, Ainge has been able to speak freely with Garnett and his representatives leading up to free agency, which begins July 1.
Ainge said there's no deadline for Garnett to let the C's know what his intentions are, but Ainge added, "I'll know that by July 1. I'll be in communication with him, and have some sort of read on that."
If Garnett's decision doesn't come by then, Ainge acknowledged that it could put some of their plans this offseason on hold.
"The sooner we can get Kevin done, the better it would be for us, the sooner we would have an idea on what direction we need to go," said Ainge, the C's president of basketball operations. He added, "We don't want to rush him. We don't want to pressure him."
With a pair of first-round picks, the Celtics could look to add at least one big man who could help, but no one believes that a player in this draft, let alone a late first-round pick, could make up for the potential void left if Garnett decides to retire.
The best center most likely to still be on the board when the C's are on the clock at No. 21 and No. 22, is Syracuse's Fab Melo. Boston might also consider St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson, the Atlantic-10 Player of the Year who recently had his first workout with the Celtics.
While Garnett's uncertain status will weigh on all the moves being considered, Ainge said it will have "very little" impact on what the Celtics do on draft night.
"With us only having four guys under contract, we need every position filled," Ainge said.
Mickael Pietrus is also a free agent, and he has made it absolutely clear that he wants to return to Boston.
He has been in town the past few weeks working out, and is anxious for Sunday -- the first day of free agency -- to arrive.
But when it does finally get here, he understands the focus for Boston will be on two letters - KG - and two numbers - 1-8, as in Banner 18.
The two have had discussions since the season, with their talks most recently centering around soccer.
"We have a bet," Pietrus said from the Celtics' practice facility on Wednesday. "He's rooting for Germany. I'm rooting for Spain. So hopefully I collect on my bet Sunday, and he signs his new contract."