Garnett's return to Celtics allows another title run

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Garnett's return to Celtics allows another title run

WALTHAM The return of Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics was anything but a given.

Paul Pierce recalls many times sitting around with Garnett last season and asking him the only question Celtics Nation cared about - Are you coming back or what?

"I really wasn't confident he was coming back," Pierce said. "Kevin, he said this is it for him. People didn't know this, but there are times we'd be in the locker room and be like, 'Kevin, is this your last year?' He was like, 'Yeah, this is it.' I would say, 'If you retire, I'm going to retire.' But then I started thinking. I was like, 'Kevin's been in the NBA since he was 18. He doesn't know anything else. What is he going to do? He has to come back.'"

And because of Garnett's decision to return, the Celtics are once again in the hunt to win an NBA title.

You can point towards Rajon Rondo's development into one of the NBA's top players and not just one of the elite point guards. Boston has the kind of bench depth that the C's haven't seen since the 2008 championship team.

But any chance of the Celtics winning another NBA title hinged on Garnett's return.

Two of the folks who played a major part in his return - head coach Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge, the C's president of basketball operations - each had different takes on the probability of Garnett coming back for a sixth season with the Celtics.

"I had some doubt that Garnett would return," Ainge said. "Listen, it's a grind. And every year, players, it's amazing what a person like Kevin Garnett puts in to prepare himself for the year and what he does day-in and day-out just to go out on the court. I'm grateful that he chose to come back and play and I think a lot of it has to do with Paul and Rondo and Doc and what he believes that we can do this year."

Rivers remembers hearing Garnett talk about retirement often last season.

"It was a bunch of crap, I never believed it," Rivers said. "I really didn't. I told him that all the time. Everytime, in the middle of the season, I would say, 'next year,' (and he'd say), 'I won't be here next year,' that was Kevin. But I never believed it, I honestly didn't."

But if you listen to Garnett now, retirement was a serious consideration heading into free agency this summer.

And while he was able to sign with any team, Garnett made it clear that Boston was the only team he would consider playing for this season.

"I did give it some real thought," Garnett said. "My number one reason for coming back was Doc (Rivers). Doc being here is huge, and I enjoy playing for him. The guys, the city, the fans here are by far the best fans that I've been a part of. And all that stuck with me."

But as much as the fuzzy, feel-good stuff helped make Garnett's decision to come back for three seasons ("I don't know how Danny talked me into three years," Garnett said), his ability to still play at a high level was probably what swayed him the most to sign on for another run towards a title.

"This is in his blood," Pierce said. "This is what he's been born to do. For him to be playing at a high level to walk away from the game and with his competitive spirit, inside at the end I knew he wasn't going anywhere because me as a competitor, I understand other competitors. I just knew that he wasn't going to walk away."

Rivers echoed those sentiments.

"Even this summer when you heard whispers, I think there (were) a couple reports that he decided to retire, I just didn't believe it," Rivers said. "He just has too much passion. You don't usually see guys with the fire burning high with the level that he's played to just turn it off. It's unnatural, and it's definitely unnatural for Kevin."

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan didn't get a chance to answer one question in his postgame interview before being interrupted by Kyle Lowry, Jared Sullinger, and LeGarrette Blount.

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

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“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”