Is this it for KG?

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Is this it for KG?

This summer, Kevin Garnett will become a free agent for the first time in his Hall of Fame career. A rather impressive (if not entirely intentional) accomplishment when you consider that his career began back when Michael Jordan had only three rings, Jason Kidd and Grant Hill were reigning Rookies of the Year and Charles Barkley and Shaquille ONeal averaged a combined 50 points a night instead of 50 bad jokes.

Since then Garnetts transformed from NBA revolutionary to young phenom to All-Star to MVP to On Top of the World. These days, hes come back to Earth. Hes no longer a freakish athlete, but one of the leagues wiliest vets. And although it took a few seasons, hes finally accepted his limitations and altered his game accordingly. As a result, the man we all thought was done (as far back as 2009) has experienced a resurgence.

Of course, hes nowhere near where he was. But hes also so far beyond where we thought he would be. And in a little more than three months, for the first time in his legendary career, hell become a free agent.

In some ways, it might be a little early to speculate as to what hell do. After all, a lot will happen between now and then. And if you believe Danny Ainge (and come on, when has he ever lied to us?), not even KG knows what KG wants. In which case, who are we to try and figure out his future? A bunch of nobody Jeff Teagues, thats who.

But at the same time, its nearly impossible not to speculate. Thats because theres also a very good chance that in a little more than three months, or a little less than three months or simply at some point between now and the start of next season, Kevin Garnett will call it quits. That after these next 18 regular season games, plus however many the Celtics hang around for in the playoffs, Garnett will walk off the court, never look back and spend the rest of his days jogging on the beaches of Malibu and scaring the ever-living crap out of his daughters boyfriends. And as a Celtics fan, or even an NBA fan, how do you not wonder where this thing is headed?

Quick story: Last month, for my birthday, my parents picked me up a duty free bottle of Johnny Walker Blue on their way back from Puerto Rico. Its the first time Id ever had a full bottle of Blue, so I was pretty excited. And, as advertised, it was awesome. Anyway, one night I was sitting on the couch and my girlfriend was in the kitchen, so I asked her to pour me a glass. She did. I enjoyed it. And that was that. Until . . .

A couple of nights later, I was ready for more. So I went into the cabinet, grabbed the bottle and . . . it was empty.

Turns out that last glass had been my last glass. And I'd had no idea.

I wasn't mad at my girlfriend, because I'm not a psycho, but I did think: "Man, I wish I'd known. If only I'd realized that was the last of the Blue, I somehow would have enjoyed it more. At the very least, I would have made a point to savor every last sip."

And I think thats all we want with KG.

If he's going to retire, we just want a heads up. We want to know: "OK, this is it! Now everyone appreciate every last jump shot, after-the-whistle-goal-tend and expletive-filled scream because this is the last you'll see of Kevin Garnett!"

Sadly, considering how tight-lipped and supposedly-indecisive Garnett is on the issue, there's a good chance that won't happen. But in the meantime, here are two things we know for sure:

1. The Celtics want Garnett back
"Yes, absolutely, we want him back," Doc Rivers said before Friday's loss to the 76ers. And on this week's edition of Celtics Courtside Club, Rivers told Greg Dickerson why: I think hes very comfortable, I think hes healthy," Rivers said. "I think moving him to the five has been a big benefit to him. Now hes the quickest guy every night at his position, and I think thats been a big benefit to him as well."

Lets face it: The plan was to get Dwight Howard. And now that the plan has fallen through, at least for this year, the Celtics are in a tough position. Most notably, they don't have a center. And unless they're willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money to pry Roy Hibbert (maybe), Brooke Lopez (not likely) or Javale McGee (no freaking way) from their restricted status, this is the crop of unrestricted centers that the Celtics have to choose from:

Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, Spencer Hawes, Kwame Brown, Aaron Gray, Robin Lopez, Nazr Mohammed, Omer Asik, Semih Erden, Ben Wallace, Mehmet Okur and JERMAINE ONEAL.

Is there anyone on this list who you'd rather have for next year than KG?

Of course, you won't win a title with 36-year-old Kevin Garnett as your starting center. But short of some magnificent blockbuster, you're not winning next year anyway. So why not stay relatively competitive with a cheaper KG, keep him around to help the younger players and maintain that championship culture, and then make the transition when transitioning makes more sense?

It's not ideal, but in my opinion, that's the Celtics most logical move.

However . . .

2. Other teams want him, too. And badly.

A few weeks ago, SI reported that the Nets are very interested in Garnett. And that if the price is right, he may be one of the most coveted free agents on the market. But, of course, the biggest question here is whether Garnett is even interested in a relocation.

Here's what he said in an interview the Globe last September. (It's the most candid he's ever been on the issue):

"I want to finish my career as a Celtic," he said. "This is it. I dont plan on bouncing from team-to-team, thats not really the plan. Hopefully God willing, I can finish my career out in the classy, elegant with a class-full organization as Boston. I dont want to downgrade. I want to continue to be where Im at. This is the first option and hopefully the only option."

OK, so first of all, we can rule out NJ and any other middle of the road team, because KG's not downgrading. But what about the other teams?

What if Chicago amnesties Carlos Boozer (or Rip Hamilton), signs Ronnie Fields to the vet minimum and asks KG to come back in play in a city he once called home, and for perhaps the only coach in the league he respects as much as Doc. What if Dallas wants him to join Dirk and D-Will or either of the LA teams make a push?

I don't know. On one hand, it would be great to see KG have another chance to compete for a title. And in the above quote, I'd say he leaves the window open a tiny crack . . .

But I don't see it happening.

It would be one thing if the Celtics were ready to let him walk. If Doc said, "Kevin, we love you. We'll never forget what you did for us. But we need to move on." But that's obviously not the case. It's only March and Doc is already in full recruitment mode. If he's being this open with the media about how badly he wants Garnett back in the fold, you can only imagine what he's saying behind the scenes. And considering the relationship the Rivers and Garnett have formed over the past five years, it's almost unfathomable that Garnett would walk away. Even if he wanted to.

But the biggest question is still: Does he want to play at all?

And that's what we'll be asking ourselves right up until July 1.

Right now, you get the sense that he wants to play. Mostly because he still can. We all imagined that Garnett would be limping his way into the summer of 2012, but that's just not the case. He has some left. And he's not the kind of guy you'd expect to leave that on the table. So, if I had to guess right now, I'd say KG is back next season. With the Celtics.

I never dreamed that could happen, but when you consider:

a) KG's health and productivity
b) The state of the Celtics
c) That it's only March and Doc Rivers who KG absolutely loves is already publicly pleading for Garnett to return.

It almost makes sense.

If there's one monkey wrench in Doc's recruitment plan, I'd say it comes back to the center position. The Celtics clearly want Garnett back to play the 5, and Garnett has been very open in the past about not wanting to play there.

Let's say the Celtics finish with the sixth seed, draw Orlando in the first round, and KG spends seven games exchanging blows with Dwight Howard. And what if the Celtics win that series, draw Chicago and KG's faced with five or six games of Joakim Noah. Couldn't you see him coming out of those playoffs thinking: "Man, this isn't me. I'm not a center. It's time to go."

I can. But who knows? For now that's all speculation.

And for now, unfortunately, that's all we have.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Patriots WR Malcolm Mitchell gets a new deal . . . with Scholastic Books

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Patriots WR Malcolm Mitchell gets a new deal . . . with Scholastic Books

Second-year Patriots receiver Malcolm Mitchell already had a children's book published before he was drafted last year. Now he has a three-book deal with children's book publisher Scholastic. 

The three books will include a newly-illustrated edition of his self-published first crack at the children's book genre, "The Magician Hat," according to the Associated Press. That will come out in May of next year and be followed up by two more original works. 

Mitchell has been a children's literacy advocate since before joining the Patriots. That he joined a reading club -- made up mostly of women twice his age or more -- was quickly seized upon by multiple media outlets in the build-up to last year's draft as one of the feel-good stories in that year's class of prospects. 

Mitchell has founded a youth literacy initiative called Read With Malcolm, and he's the Patriots "Summer Reading Ambassador," encouraging young students to read as much as possible during the summer months. He hosted reading rallies across New England that began in Roxbury, Mass. back in March and finished up last week at The Hall at Patriot Place.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

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At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.