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Kevin Garnett - Perhaps the Least Qualified Person to Speak for the Players

Much has been made of the apparently fateful moment a couple of weeks ago when Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce inserted themselves into the lockout negotiations. By all accounts, progress was being made between the league and the players when the super stars, Garnett in particular, decided that this negotiation was more about intimidation than reconciliation and decided to stare the owners into submission. The talks broke down, the first two weeks of the season were cancelled, and it took federal intervention to get the sides back to the table.

And the question has been asked many times since: Kevin Garnett? Really?

Bill Simmons decided to point out that neither Garnett nor Bryant spent so much as a day in college - I'm not going to go there. Turns out Steve Jobs dropped out of college, and he turned out to be a pretty decent businessman. But based on Garnett's on-court persona, it's hard to imagine how anyone would let him anywhere near a negotiation as nuanced as this. He can't scowl his way to a mutually agreeable BRI split. He can't punch the luxury tax like a stanchion. There's little room for smack-talk at the negotiating table.

But to me there's a much more obvious problem with Garnett's role here. If this moment was supposedly about the superstars drawing a line in the sand, hijacking the negotiations in defense of the select few who really drive the popularity of the league, then Garnett is an exceedingly strange representative. Garnett has earned around $270M in his 16 year career. The contract he signed in 1997 is the most visible flashpoint of the 1998 lockout - but Kevin Garnett is the only active player in the league whose earning potential has never been limited by a collective bargaining agreement. It's not as if the last CBA rolled back the contract he signed in 1997 - he made $28M in 03-04, while Kobe (one crucial year behind KG in entering the league) made less than half that, $13.5M, because of the individual player maximum salary instituted after the last lockout. 

It would be one thing for Kobe to be up in Stern's grill about reductions in BRI or limited options in free agency or eliminating Bird rights. The rules established in the last CBA probably took around a hundred million dollars out of his pocket. Garnett? What the hell is his beef? "The last time you muthas pulled this bulls__t it cost me... well nothing! I'll be damned if I'm going to sit here at age 35, long past the point where I ever have to worry about maximum contracts or anything else in this CBA, and watch you sign a deal that would let other people play basketball! I'll see you all in hell! Or retirement, which is pretty close for me anyway."

The ones who should be in there fighting for their interests are Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin and other stars still on rookie deals - those are the Kobe's of this negotiation, the ones whose entire earning careers are going to be dialed back by the new CBA. 

Garnett was the wrong guy on every level.