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."

Highlights: Atlanta Hawks 114, Boston Celtics 98

Highlights: Atlanta Hawks 114, Boston Celtics 98

Tempers flared between the Celtics and Hawks, but Atlanta was able to get the best of Boston as they get the victory in the TD Garden.

Blakely: On surface Bogut makes sense for Celtics, but it comes down to chemistry

Blakely: On surface Bogut makes sense for Celtics, but it comes down to chemistry

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics got their butts kicked (again) on the boards Monday night by the Atlanta Hawks who defeated them 114-98.

The Celtics get their butts kicked most nights on the boards, and yet still find a way to win more often than not.

That’s why the possibility of adding Andrew Bogut who was bought out by Philadelphia is so intriguing.

Once he clears waivers on Wednesday, he’ll officially be a man in high demand with teams trying to show him love as if he was Kevin Durant or LeBron James.

But as much as the 31-year-old center on paper seems like a good addition to the Celtics roster because of his rebounding prowess and rim protection on defense, here’s what you have to keep in mind with Bogut or any other player Danny Ainge and the C's front-office brass decides to bring through that door.

Whatever team a new guy joins, he’ll look to play decent minutes and showcase his skills with unrestricted free agency around the corner this summer.

As far as Bogut is concerned, he's one of the more underrated members of Golden State's title squad in 2016.

Draymond Green's all-around game, Steph Curry’s 3-point bombs and Klay Thompson’s two-way talent were all key to the Warriors winning a title two years ago. But lost in their success among fans was Bogut’s defense which covered up for a lot of mistakes, miscues and blown assignments.

Whatever team Bogut signs with, ideally he would be looking to provide that same interior presence.

But here’s another issue.

Adding Bogut means waiving a player, most likely a young player that the Celtics will have essentially decided to give up on.

Since Bogut is a big, the logical target of being waived is Jordan Mickey.

The second-round pick from 2015 has shown improvement, but not nearly enough to garner steady minutes or even sporadic time on this roster.

Amir Johnson and Al Horford are the starters, with Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko rounding out their four-man big rotation so they're not going anywhere.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens typically plays those four bigs every night, so the idea of adding a fifth to the regular rotation doesn’t make sense.

Will one of those four be cool with not playing some nights or having their minutes severely carved up?

Would Bogut be cool with sometimes playing in games, or sometimes playing the role of waving a towel supporting his team from the bench?

And how does his presence affect chemistry which is a major deal for this team and its success this season.

Boston’s bigs in terms of rebounding, have not been good all season.

We can all agree on that.

And yet despite those struggles, they have the second-best record in the East (38-22) along with being a top-5 or top-6 team record-wise in the NBA.

They’re able to win because they have solid talent and Teflon-strong bonds to where they don't just play with each other, but for each other every night. 

We have seen stretches this season when the minutes have been cut or wiped out altogether for rotation players like Terry Rozier, Jonas Jerebko and Jaylen Brown.

And yet during the time when they are not playing as much, you never hear any public grumbling or private bickering among themselves or to the media.

There is a high level of accountability with Brad Stevens-coached teams that if you’re doing your job well, you’ll play. If not, your minutes might go to a teammate.

The best example of this came earlier this season when Gerald Green was essentially a practice player until Christmas Day when he came up big in Boston’s win over the New York Knicks.

Green saw more minutes going forward, but soon found himself struggling to get on the floor afterwards on some nights and the man whose minutes he took – Rozier – was back in the playing mix. 

During those times when Rozier wasn't playing, he said Green was a fixture in his ear, offering words of encouragement regardless of whether he was playing a lot or not at all. 

“Gerald’s always encouraging me, encouraging the young guys to just keep working, be patient and when your time comes, run with it,” Rozier recently told CSNNE.com. “He’s been a great vet for us young guys.”

And while Bogut wouldn’t come in looking to mess with the team’s chemistry, that doesn’t matter.

Anytime a new guy is added to the mix, it has the potential to be a really good pick-up or a potentially catastrophic equation of subtraction by addition.

In talking with a league executive who Bogut played for earlier in his career, he said Bogut would be a good addition to the Celtics roster from a basketball standpoint.

“But you never know about how they fit outside of that,” the executive told CSNNE.com. “As we’ve seen, sometimes it’s just as important that guys click off the court as it is that they can play together on it. I don’t think that would be an issue, but with new guys and not knowing how that locker room works and its dynamics, you just never really know how it’ll play out.

The executive added, “But if they can get him after the Philly buyout, do it. He can help them. His strength is their weakness; it makes a lot of sense for both sides honestly.”