LOS ANGELES -- Fourteen stars decorated the back of Kevin Garnett's jersey Sunday night, one for each of his NBA All-Star appearances. But after logging a mere 7 minutes, 32 seconds of action in the West's 148-143 triumph over the East, Garnett briefly turned introspective about whether this might have been his final All-Star experience.
"You know, to be in your prime and play All-Star caliber basketball is a compliment to you and your work ethic," said Garnett. "I'm just fortunate I was here with three other [teammates], along with my coaching staff and guys in the organization. If this is the last one then, hey, man, couldn't go out a better way."
No need to start planning the farewell tour. With an uncertain labor forecast for next season, one that would be the final year of his current contract, Garnett simply might be acknowledging that nothing can be assumed, not even him maintaining an All-Star level of play.
Garnett chipped in four points, five rebounds, two assists, and a block Sunday. He expended more energy on the bench in the final minutes, cheering the East's rally than he did in his limited court time.
"Well, that's just KG," said Rivers. "He wanted to win."
With the second half of the season looming, Rivers limited Garnett's minutes. And the 34-year-old forward didn't argue.
"I told Doc there wasn't no urgency," said Garnett. "They're here to see the young guys. I understand that. It's all good. I played enough minutes, enough times. It's all good. It's nothing personal. If he needed me, I was right there. If not, it's all good."
Garnett is averaging 14.9 points and 9 rebounds per game this season. After battling leg ailments the past two seasons, he's reasserted himself as one of the league's best defensive players, earning the All-Star nod in large part due to his inspired play protecting the basket this season.
This isn't the first time this season that Garnett has hinted at this potentially being his final NBA season.
"We have a real vibrant team and I love our team," Garnett said after a December win over Chicago. "I don’t like it, I love our team. I love our guys and this is the first time in a long time I’ve allowed myself to actually enjoy them. But I do have a certain way and a certain style that I like to be when I hit the court. [Shaquille O'Neal] gets a smile out of me very now and then, but for the most part I’m still me. At some point, especially with the lockout coming up, who knows if this is my last year or, if we don’t play next year, what it’s going to be. So I’m trying to enjoy the guys now, you know."