The presence of experienced veterans willing to share their knowledge, work ethic, and high standards of basketball has been a key part of the Boston Celtics success over the years.
The leading voice behind it all has been Kevin Garnett, whose return to the Cs -- and the NBA -- was left in question at the end of the 2011-12 season as he entered unrestricted free agency.
On Saturday, CSNNE.coms A. Sherrod Blakely confirmed Kevin Garnett and the Celtics are nearing completion of a three-year deal worth over 30 million. Garnetts return gives them more than 16 points and 8 rebounds per game.
With only four players under contract for next season, the Celtics needed veteran leadership. Aside from team captain Paul Pierce and floor general Rajon Rondo, the only other players on the books were 23-year-old JaJuan Johnson and 21-year-old Avery Bradley, who are entering their third and second seasons, respectively.
Add in the Celtics three draft picks -- 20-year-old Jared Sullinger, 22-year-old Fab Melo who began playing basketball less than five years ago, and 23-year-old Kris Joseph -- and the team was suddenly younger with only two vets on the roster.
"We think we've developed a good culture here, Celtics assistant general manager Ryan McDonough said on Draft Night. The Big Three have set the tone, along with Rajon Rondo, and we look for guys that can fit into that culture. We think this draft kind of fell perfectly almost for us because we got guys that we consider to be potential starters down the road at the power forward and the center position. By all accounts, they're good kids and hard workers."
With Garnett back in Boston, the young members of the Celtics, and additional players the team acquires during free agency, will have a mentor they can turn to whenever they need him.
During his rookie season, Johnson sat across from Garnett on the team plane and absorbed thousands of miles worth of advice along the trips.
If you listen to him, he's going to share anything with you, Johnson said.
Garnetts presence is also key for players who have spent years in the league. Last season he was a resonating voice of calm and encouragement as the Celtics struggled prior to hitting their stride and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. Many of his teammates credited him for keeping the team positive and pushing forward.
I havent played with anyone who is as serious and passionate vocally as him, said Brandon Bass. A lot of our sayings around here all come from KG. When were down, one of his sayings is, Keep going. If he sees anybody having a bad game or struggling in any type of way, hell say, Keep going for the guys to keep going. He talks and he goes out and gives his best effort every night, so its easy to follow someone like that.
Garnett will give it his all on the parquet over the duration of his new contract. But perhaps more importantly will be the contributions he shares with his teammates off the court, constantly reminding them what it means to be a Celtic.