WALTHAM The last go-around for the Big Three. The window closing.
Spin it how you want, but there's a pretty good chance Kevin Garnett has heard some incarnation of it over the past few seasons.
And like a 5-foot-9 guard trying to score over him in the lane, Garnett rejected the question emphatically.
"Next question," he said.
Even though he's 35 years old and has spent nearly half his life in the NBA, the future is something Garnett doesn't give much thought to right now.
He's more consumed with the Celtics season opener against New York on Christmas Day. And once he unwraps a few presents after the game, he'll turn his attention to the next item on the Celtics' docket at Miami on Tuesday.
"I've been getting that question throughout the whole year," said Garnett, who truthfully, has been getting that question for the last two or three years. "I don't anticipate the future, because things are not set in stone. I'm not a person to go back on my word, so I don't know."
For Garnett, the idea of entertaining life beyond this truncated 66-game schedule is a dead issue.
"I'm not even going to give it any air," he said. "Because whatever this year presents itself to be, it would be just that. And the next year, everybody will come back and make a decision."
That doesn't mean he's completely oblivious to the reality that this may very well be his last go-around with this current core group which includes himself, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.
"I'm cherishing a lot more not knowing what the future is," he said. "I'm embracing younger guys a little more; younger guys that want to work, embrace our culture and what we do here."
Following Thursday's practice, Garnett was barking out instructions to rookies Greg Stiemsma and JaJuan Johnson, both looking on intently.
Garnett has a well-earned reputation for tuning out rookies that don't work hard, don't listen, or both.
When asked if the two rookie big men were listening to Garnett's words of advice, coach Doc Rivers, grinning, said, "Clearly."
"All you have to do is watch," he added, "and see that he's still talking to them. The answer is yes."
Garnett has also been a major influence on Rondo.
Rondo will be the first to acknowledge that early on his career with the Big Three, he and Garnett butted heads a lot.
"I got into it with a lot of people my first couple years," Rondo said. "But we rely on each other. Kevin is one of my best friends on the team right now. Kendrick Perkins left, and I think it kind of made us closer. Kevin and I talk a lot lately, we're trying to stay on the same page. Both working on our attitudes for the better of the team. And me just growing up as a leader, he's been one of my mentors."
And that mentoring begins with Garnett's ability to lead both verbally and by example.
"Kevin is a great leader. If you want a leader, you want a guy like Kevin on your team, on your side," Rondo said. "He works hard. He does by it by his play, not necessarily his talk. He does a lot of talking too, but he backs it up. He's a future Hall of Famer. He's done a lot in this league. For having him as a mentor, a leader, whatever you want to call it, he's a great addition to anyone's team."