July 31, 2007
During the past five weeks, Danny Ainge was careful to say that trade talks for Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Garnett were dormant - as opposed to dead.
The Celtics director of basketball operations appeared close to making his patience pay off last night.
Garnett, previously opposed to a trade to the Celtics when the deal nearly went through before the June 28 NBA draft, reportedly had a change of heart, in part thanks to the team's draft-night trade for Ray Allen as a perimeter complement to Paul Pierce.
Ainge was involved in discussions last night with Minnesota and Garnett's agent, Andy Miller, to smooth out details of a trade that would bring the power forward to Boston in exchange for Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff and unspecified draft choices.
A Celtics source said yesterday that the key in bringing negotiations back to life was Garnett's sudden willingness to sign a contract extension - most likely for four years after his current deal expires following the 2008-09 season.
Garnett will make $22 million next year and $24 million in '08-09, although he can opt out of the last year. Garnett also has a 15 percent trade kicker in his current contract, which the Celtics reportedly were attempting to get him to waive.
The C's also were searching for ways to lessen the luxury-tax hit they will take next season with Garnett aboard. Although Minnesota vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale had been the driving force behind the trade talks, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor reportedly was pushing this deal hardest yesterday. McHale reportedly was on a cruise and initially unreachable. Not only does the trade turn the Celtics into instant contenders for the Eastern Conference title - if not the NBA title - it also gives them the most expensive threesome in the league.
Garnett ($22 million), Pierce ($16.4 million) and Allen ($16 million) would tilt the bank at a combined $54.4 million next season. With Garnett, the Celtics payroll as a whole would be approximately $66 million, but they also would have only 11 players under contract after the trade, one short of the 12-player league minimum. Most likely, they would add a player at the $5.6 million mid-level exception.
Even with only 11 players, the Celtics now have one of the 10 highest payrolls in the league. An Eastern Conference general manager, after going over the money the Celtics would pay their new ``Big Payday Three,'' said, ``That has to be some kind of league record.'' At least the Celtics won't have to worry about disharmony.
Allen and Garnett, who both grew up in South Carolina, are said to have a friendship that goes back to their earliest days as players.
Pierce, Garnett and Allen all attended the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles on July 11, and a potential deal reportedly was discussed. Garnett, previously unmoved by joining a Celtics team with such dour prospects, suddenly liked what he saw with the addition of Allen.
Coaches and general managers throughout the Eastern Conference took note when Cleveland, an average team with LeBron James its only real star, reached the NBA Finals last season.
Should the Celtics complete this trade, they will put far more on the floor than anything those Cavaliers could muster.