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NBA PM: Major Role Waiting For Garnett

If healthy, Kevin Garnett will start and play major minutes for the Nets.

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Major Role Waiting For Kevin Garnett

When Kevin Garnett is inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a first balloter, his 2013-14 campaign with the Brooklyn Nets is not going to be mentioned among his career highlights. It was the actually the worst year of his career, even worse than his rookie campaign 19 years ago when he made the jump straight from high school and was playing against grown men as a skinny, 18-year-old with so much to learn about the game of basketball and being a professional.

Obviously, it didn’t take long as from his sophomore year on, he went on to be a premiere player at his position and one of the faces of the NBA.

However, now as a 38-year-old veteran who is perhaps only one more season away from retirement, he finds his productivity free-falling in a steep, downhill fashion similar to that of former greats Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon before they made their decisions to retire. The six points and six rebounds he averaged a game were the lowest in his career. And, they came just a year after the Boston Celtics, the franchise he helped bring back to prominence and won a championship for, decided to trade him to the aforementioned Nets despite multiple public statements from Garnett about how content he was finishing his career there.

Garnett even had a rare no-trade clause built into his deal because at the time, both sides expected for him to be there for the remainder of his career. However, the Celtics wanted to go in another direction and by pairing him with Paul Pierce in the deal to the Nets, he was convinced to waive it and end his Celtics career sooner than he wanted to.

Although they did not get the Garnett they were hoping for last season, the Nets have not given up on maximizing what very likely will be the final year of his career. For the majority of the summer, there’s been some questions about whether Garnett would even play, but it appears now that he is on board, and has a sizeable role waiting for him as well.

“There is nobody in the gym that I would put in his place,” Nets head coach Lionel Hollins said to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York. “He has earned the right to have that opportunity to be the starter from day one. Somebody has to knock him out, it’s got to be like a heavyweight fight. I don’t really see that happening.

“If he’s healthy, and producing, he’s going to play. How many minutes? I don’t know. But he is not going to play 15 or 16 minutes. I can guarantee you that. If he is playing and starting, he is going to be out there.”

Garnett has been working out with his teammates recently in New Jersey, according to ESPN New York, the most definitive sign that he plans on coming back. Prior to that, Garnett was keeping to himself and had very little communication with anyone in the organization, even through the coaching change with Jason Kidd leaving for the Milwaukee Bucks and being replaced by Hollins.

“I understood why he wasn’t around and why he wasn’t communicating,” Hollins said. “When you get to this stage and have to make big life-changing decisions, it should be alone and with your family. The decision has to be his. He is a Hall of Fame player and he deserves Hall of Fame respect.

“I didn’t even ask him how close he is to retiring. It doesn’t really matter. You’re pregnant or you’re not pregnant. He looks good. I would assume that if he decided to come back and in fact it is his last year, he would want to make it his best.”

The Nets aren’t just giving Garnett this opportunity because they have faith that he can have a bounce-back year. They’re giving it to him because they want to extract all the production they can out of him because they’ll be paying for him long after he is gone. Garnett is in the final year of his contract and is owed $12 million, but the Nets gave up three first-round picks (2014, 2016 and 2018) along with the right to swap picks in 2017 to the Celtics as part of the trade to acquire him along with Gerald Wallace, Kris Humprhies, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans and Kris Joseph.

The days of Garnett being a true number one option have clearly come to an end; that’s not going to be what the Nets are expecting, or needing from him. What they need for Garnett to do is get back to being the captain of their defense and spacing the floor with his patented mid-range jump shot. With a healthy Deron Williams and Brook Lopez being added into the mix, Garnett’s work load will be extremely manageable. Hollins may be his third coach in as many seasons, but he brings a system and approach that appears to be ideal for Garnett – especially at this point in his career.

As one of the fiercest and most intense competitors the game has ever seen, walking away after a disappointing season like the last one would have been difficult to embrace. The winner in him wants to go out on as high of a note as possible, and the Nets are willing to give him the chance to do so.

Under Armour Lands Emmanuel Mudiay

Under Armour made headlines this offseason by making a historically large pitch to Kevin Durant, although they ended up having their offer topped by Nike in the end. Without a star like that available on the open market, they’re looking toward the future and have signed top 2015 NBA Draft prospect Emmanuel Mudiay.

Mudiay, originally a SMU commit who decided to go overseas and play in China in order to help his family financially, joins the likes of Brandon Jennings, who also made the jump from high school to overseas, and Stephen Curry on UA.

“With Emmanuel joining our roster, Under Armour Basketball has added one of the game’s best young players to our team,” Matt Mirchin of UA said in a statement. “For such a young player, Emmanuel has a complete game, is a leader and plays with toughness that stands out the moment you see him step out on the court. He has the potential to be a special player for a long time. We’re proud to now be a part of his journey.”

“Joining Under Armour is an important step in the pursuit of my ultimate dream to compete at the game’s highest level,” Mudiay added. “Knowing their dedication to making athletes better and how well their footwear performs made them the perfect partner.”

Mudiay was regarded as a potential No. 1 overall pick when he was expected to play for Larry Brown at SMU. Now, he’ll have to prove himself in a league that many scouts and executives view as an “entertainment” league, rather than one that is chief for development.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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