August 1, 2007
The feeling was like what for Kevin Garnett - Liberation? Empowerment? Flying without wings?
No, the 10-time All-Star said yesterday, sitting between his two new Celtics teammates, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, while attempting to envision his suddenly brilliant future.
Now that Garnett gets to share the floor with both players, and the Celtics in turn are expected to go from chaff to the cream of the Eastern Conference, he knows of something better.
``I told them that it's like being in a Lamborghini that's going 200 mph with your head hanging out the window,'' said Garnett, his eyes so fiery that it seemed he might actually be familiar with the sensation. ``I'm so excited.''
Danny Ainge, who only a month ago was told by agent Andy Miller that Garnett wanted no part of Boston, could suddenly feel that breeze himself after pulling off the biggest Celtics trade since the team's last championship 21 years ago.
``That's a long neck,'' said the director of basketball operations, attempting to picture Garnett in that Lamborghini. ``I don't know that there's any way else he could drive a Lamborghini.''
Just as there was no other way for this team to again become a positive force in the hearts of its long-suffering fans.
By Ainge's own admission the team gave up a wealth of young talent in sending Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, a 2009 top-three protected first-round draft pick and a conditional first rounder held over from the Ricky Davis/Wally Szczerbiak trade to the Timberwolves.
``Minnesota got a great deal,'' said Ainge, who finally smoothed out the rough edges yesterday morning on a three-year extension that will keep Garnett in a Celtics uniform for the next five years. Though Garnett didn't waive the 15 percent trade kicker in his contract, in part due to league restrictions on those matters, the team was able to restructure his additional money in an attempt to ease next season's luxury tax burden. Just as Garnett said the trade for Allen changed his thinking about becoming a Celtics, Ainge's ability to move Szczerbiak's weighty contract to Seattle enabled the Celtics to make another bid for Garnett. But they also had a little help.
``KG sought us out after the Ray Allen trade,'' Ainge said. ``He wanted to come to Boston. This became his first choice after we got Ray Allen.''
Pierce, in turn, had his request for veteran help answered many times over. After years of frustration, including two straight seasons that ended without a whiff of the postseason, the Celtics captain's dreams were rewarded by a man with a game as big as Santa Claus.
``When I asked for veterans, I didn't expect to get a (10)-time All-Star,'' the Celtics captain said. ``I don't know. This is a dream that came true for me.''
Ainge's task is far from complete. The next step is to sign two or three veteran role players to free agent contracts, with veteran center Dikembe Mutombo said to be a particular favorite of management. A call has also been sent out for a veteran point guard to back up Rajon Rondo.
But for Garnett, Pierce and Allen, the core couldn't be better. Indeed, all three agreed that there isn't a better - or a more expensive - threesome in the NBA.
``I don't know if we're the team to beat in the East, but I know that when teams look at the schedule and see they're about to play us, they're going to stay in and get their rest the night before,'' Pierce said.
For Allen, however, the most peaceful feeling will probably come on the court while watching Pierce and Garnett clear the floor.
``When I'm on the perimeter and those guys are behind me, I know how I'm going to feel,'' he said. ``My swagger's up. My confidence is through the roof.''