Kevin Garnett was fired up. There’s nothing abnormal about that, but this time there was no basket stanchion for Garnett to pound his head, no pick-and-rolls to hedge, just a room full of NBA employees trying to take more of Garnett’s money.
After the latest labor negotiation Tuesday afternoon, Garnett and teammate Paul Pierce emerged with a disgusted look on their faces, according to Chris Mannix. A few minutes later Garnett fielded queries from reporters.
“Garnett is literally staring down every reporter who asks a question,” tweeted Mannix.
The players and owners had closed the gap, we know now. The day began with the players wanting a 53% split of Basketball-Related Income, at least, and the owners offering only 46%. By day’s end the two offers were only 2% apart, with the owner’s unofficially offering a 50-50 split and the players refusing to pass 52-48. That means the two sides are only $80 million apart per season, or, in other words, the lockout is one Rudy Gay away from ending.
Though there was progress during yesterday’s talks, Garnett and Pierce, we expect, hoped to leave yesterday with a labor deal agreed to or at least on the verge. Garnett in particular took on a leadership role during the talks. He was reportedly “extremely emotional” before the meeting, urging the players association to hold firm on the BRI split. But he must be split on whether to accept the owner’s latest 50-50 offer. Though the future of the NBA is certainly a concern for Garnett, even the most selfless superstar of his generation must worry about his own agenda.
For Garnett and to a lesser extent Pierce, the season that rests in the balance could represent the last time they contend for a championship. Garnett has already slowed with old age, and though he showed a renaissance of sorts last year, the days of gobbling double-doubles every night and dominating every opponent are over. There are already nights when Garnett cannot compete the way he used to, nights when the legs exhibit a little rust and the spring in his step just isn’t there. Each day the lockout continues also equates to one more day Garnett ages, one more day Garnett steps closer to his basketball mortality.
Some would argue that a shortened season favors the Celtics, and in effect Garnett. But in reality, a shortened season would come equipped with more back-to-backs, and even back-to-back-to-backs, which drain veterans even more than an 82-game grind. Maybe the Celtics are already beyond the point where they could contend for titles. Maybe last season’s loss to Miami was really the passing of the Eastern Conference torch. But I assume Garnett would like every advantage to prove the critics wrong, and an 82-game season gives Boston its best shot.
And so Garnett looked disgusted when the negotiations ended without agreement on the framework for a deal, and he stared a hole through reporters when they asked him questions. Only $80 million now stand between the lockout and a full NBA season, but a deal was not consummated yesterday and there is no set date for the two sides to meet again. The sides are closer than before, for sure, and a deal is within reach by Monday, the last day for an agreement to be reached before games start being cancelled.
But for Kevin Garnett, for the Boston Celtics, close isn’t enough. Boston’s title window might be shut already, but I assume Garnett and company would like the chance to find out.