Exactly How Did Danny Get Garnett and Allen in Exchange for Players not Named Pierce?


Exactly How Did Danny Get Garnett and Allen in Exchange for Players not Named Pierce?

As 2007 turns into 2008, and with the Celtics winning with such proficiency and ease, it is time to salute Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, and the team's owners. I know they haven't won anything yet. But so far, to borrow a phrase from Mike Huckabee ... shazam!

Looking back, it's impossible to have seen this coming. Can you imagine what the reaction would have been on the evening of May 22 if Ainge had stood up and said, "Well, we're disappointed we didn't get the first or second pick. But we're going to use that fifth pick and we're going to use several of the players we have from our 24-win team to get Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Oh, and by the way, we're not giving up Paul Pierce." Even Ainge himself didn't see that one, although there was a method to his madness.

When the original Garnett deal fell apart because KG didn't want to come here, Ainge went out and got Allen from Seattle. Left alone, the deal made a little sense, but not much, although Ainge says now, "I think a team led by Ray, Paul, and Al Jefferson would have been good. Maybe very good."

Still, it seemed more like a sideways move, designed as much to keep Pierce from jumping off the Zakim Bridge as anything else. In reality, Ainge said he made the deal to help Pierce, get a veteran in the locker room - and improve his chances of landing Garnett.

"Oh yeah," Ainge said. "That's because the real key components to the Garnett deal were still there - Theo's contract and Al Jefferson. Even though Minnesota wanted that fifth pick [included in the Allen trade], I still thought there would be a way.

"But I also knew there was no way we were going to get KG if we didn't do the [Allen] deal. I felt like the Kevin Garnett element was definitely going to be satisfied by getting Ray. Whether the Minnesota element could be satisfied was still in question."

But, as we know, Kevin McHale caved, accepting Theo Ratliff, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Jefferson, and two first-rounders (one of them being the one McHale had sent to Boston in the Wally Szczerbiak-Ricky Davis deal) for a first-ballot Hall of Famer and, as we now sit, this season's leader for Most Valuable Player. It has to rank as one of the best trades since Jack Warner pried Ingrid Bergman away from David O. Selznick for six weeks to film "Casablanca" - and agreed to exchange the services of Olivia de Havilland. As Cleveland general manager Danny Ferry accurately said, "Danny Ainge embarrassed us all." (Most of all his buddy, McHale.)

Ainge said even after the initial Garnett rejection, and before the acquisition of Allen, he never really felt the KG deal was dead. But, he said, "Some things had to fall in place.

"Trades are sometimes not just a matter of desire, but of having the pieces to make it work," Ainge said. "We've always wanted Kevin Garnett. Who hasn't? But you've got to have the contracts, elements, and assets that the other team wants. And we had to satisfy Kevin Garnett as well with a contract extension. It's not that Dallas, Phoenix, or the Lakers didn't want him. They wanted him as badly as we did."

Ainge said he feels no sense of vindication, especially since a lot of people (including yours truly) never, ever thought he could put those kids together and get what he got.

"I don't pay much attention to what people say to me on the street," he said. "They were the same people saying different things a few years ago, and I understand both sentiments."

As for Rivers, well, we know Doc has his legion of bashers, but how can anyone quibble with what the coach has done so far? Ainge was always in Rivers's corner, helped Doc get an extension, and said he never doubted his coach's ability.

"First, his presence here was a big factor in getting Kevin to come," Ainge said. "When I went out there to visit him, Tyronn Lue was staying at his house. He and KG are best friends. And that was key, because Tyronn had played for Doc and told KG that Doc was good to play for. Even though we won 24 games, Doc's reputation as a coach with KG's best friend was a factor.

"But there was a never a doubt to me that, if we had the talent, that Doc would win. That's never been an issue. It's just hard to convince people or fans who think they can coach, that don't see that it's not a game of chess, that there are people and emotions involved. If you were sitting where I had been sitting, and watching practice all the time, you would have tried to keep Doc Rivers, too."

None of this would have been possible, however, had not ownership agreed to cross the Luxury Tax Rubicon. You could say that any ownership group that wouldn't do so under these circumstances doesn't deserve to be in the NBA. But a lot of deals get killed because of luxury tax concerns. Garnett was worth the price (and the string of sellouts and the home playoff dates will help ease the pain).

But it wasn't just KG. Ownership signed off on a deal for James Posey for more than $3 million, which, because of the luxury tax, basically makes it a $6 million deal. Ainge and Rivers lobbied hard for Posey. Ownership agreed.

"It's a lot of good fortune and good ownership," Ainge said. "The owners were well aware of what we're doing. Even after the [Garnett] trade, they went a little further in the Posey deal. Doc and I felt it was a big deal. We were missing a guy like that. They stepped up and did that, too. There are a lot of teams whose owners won't do that."

So, gentlemen, kudos all around. If nothing else, you've made the Celtics relevant again. And, we suspect, brought back basketball in May. Possibly even June.

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