LOS ANGELES - Kevin Garnett strolled through the bowels of the Staples Center two-plus hours before tipoff Thursday night, exchanging pleasantries with a few people just as Clippers coach Doc Rivers exited a door a few feet behind him.
The two never saw each other, both unaware that they were once again close to crossing paths. But it still wasn't all that hard to feel the strong emotions they have for one another. They'll forever be linked, tied together by their 2008 run to the NBA championship with the Celtics, riding the coattails of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to the title.
"Only thing I hate or if I had any discounts is that we did it too late," said Garnett, who didn't play against the Clippers at Staples Center on Thursday night, sitting out the tail end of a back-to-back for the eighth time in 11 such scenarios. "I wish that we did a little sooner in our careers and who knows where we'd be.
"But it was a great experience and one of the best experiences since I've been in the league."
Garnett, who was bitten by the injury bug in 2009, contends those Celtics should have won more than one crown. "Absolutely," he said. "Father Time and things come into play. That's why you have to cherish every chance you get."
To hear Rivers explain it, it was truly a good thing Garnett initially refused to waive his no-trade when the original deal to send him from Minnesota to Boston before the 2007 draft was agreed upon. Garnett's reason for balking at the proposed trade helped bring the Big Three together in a sense when the deal was consummated again in late July 2007.
"It really was a strange time because if you remember," Rivers said, "we had that deal done and Kevin is the one who vetoed the deal. And of course the people in Boston took that as he didn't want to come to Boston. They took it very personal. He just looked at our team at that time and with just Paul, he didn't think he could win it. He'd rather hold out until it could happen. So, because if that trade is made . . . because he turned it down is what actually created that team.
"If he hadn't turned it down, we would have never had got Ray. He turned it down and so we thought he was out."
When the Celtics landed Allen, Rivers said Garnett's thought process changed quickly. All the Celtics needed to do was put together a package that was attractive enough for Timberwolves president of basketball operations Kevin McHale.
"He sees us get Ray and [with] Paul now he's thinking now if I join that team it could be good," Rivers said. "Now at that point, we didn't think we could get the trade done. Fortunately for us, Kevin had stated to us long before the first one, he wanted the best big man available, and that was Al Jefferson. So, the fact we still had Al allowed us to do the Kevin trade. I know Kevin didn't care what else we gave him. He just wanted Al, so it worked out very well for everyone."
That includes Danny Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations, and Rivers of course.
"I think at the time, he was beat up in Boston a little bit," Garnett said. "Him and Dan were on their last leg if you will, and we came in and rejuvenated that and he made it - not that basketball has been dismal to me, but I've always found it as therapy. When you give, you receive in other ways and that's what I was able to learn from Doc and being around a great group of guys that he and Danny assembled."