Kevin Garnett is making 1.5 times as much as Tim Duncan — and that's fine


Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan's careers have become so inextricably linked over a vicious, nearly 20-year rivalry that we can't talk at length about either's legacy without bringing up the other man. So let us enter the 2015 page into the history book.

Garnett: two years, $16 million. Duncan: two years, $10.4 million. Both 39-year-olds have player options next summer. Duncan clearly was a more productive player, and unlike Garnett and the Timberwolves, he never left the Spurs.

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This comes despite the fact Duncan (13.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocks over 77 games last season) had superior numbers compared to Garnett (6.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 steals over 47 games last season). And this comes despite the fact Duncan (estimated $234 million career NBA salary earnings) has made much less in his career than Garnett ($327 million) — and Duncan reportedly lost $20 million in a financial scam this year.

But let's step back.

This is not about loyalty. This is not about championship rings. This is not about flash vs. substance. This is not about Garnett putting money before winning. This is ... only a little about Duncan putting winning before money.

There's math involved here. Duncan is sacrificing (as he often has) for the Spurs because they otherwise would not be able to afford to sign LaMarcus Aldridge, who even at 30 seems like Duncan's potential replacement when Duncan one day retires. Duncan still will start (at center!) and have a huge role, but he's sacrificing to put the team in better position to contend for 201

6 and 2017 championships.

Garnett is on a very young team that already has a clear-cut future in place, with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns at the forefront. Those guys, along with Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad and other supporting players, are on rookie contracts, which can't be said for any key Spurs rotation players.

The NBA has a salary cap. The Spurs needed Duncan to sacrifice in order to finagle their way around the salary cap. The Timberwolves had money to spend, and dropping it on Garnett was a good way to engender further loyalty toward a player who says he one day would like to have an ownership stake and front-office role with the franchise.

The contracts Duncan and Garnett signed make sense for them and their teams. Both have value to their franchises that cannot be repaid under the NBA's capped system.

These are two of the 20 greatest players of all time.

Let them make their own decisions.