Kevin Garnett is one of the best players to ever play in the NBA, but he’s been underachieving for a few seasons now. A recent report from Bleacher Report suggests that Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge nearly traded KG back in 2007 when they were with the Boston Celtics as part of an attempt to move up into contention. Lakers fans would not be able to see these two edge out Kobe Bryant on their team because David Stern intervened before any trade could happen.
The “kevin garnett rings” is a story about how the Los Angeles Lakers had a deal for Kevin Garnett in 2007, but Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge destroyed the dream duo of Kobe and KG.
What if Kevin Garnett didn’t join the Boston Celtics in the first place? Would the Celtics have won the title in 2008? Despite Paul Pierce earning the MVP award for the Finals, there is a strong case to be made that Garnett should have earned it instead. The Celtics’ big three of Pierce, Garnett, and Ray Allen were a dynasty dream their first year together, winning the title and making an appearance in the Finals.
The Lakers seemed to have a deal in place when Garnett was on the trade market in Minnesota. When they were done talking to the Timberwolves, the Lakers’ brass basically shook on the deal. The ideal team of Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, however, was shattered by a tight friendship between two pals.
The Celtics and Lakers won the past three championships from 2008 to 2010, thus this transaction would have shook up the late 2000s. Both teams won, with the Lakers defeating the Celtics in the 2010 Finals. But, on the other hand, what would have occurred if this deal had failed?
The Trade Specifications
Kevin Garnett is on his way to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum have been acquired by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Garnett had earned the league MVP three years before and led the Timberwolves to the best record in the Western Conference. After reaching the Conference Finals three years in a row, the club had missed the playoffs in three straight seasons, and Garnett was fed up with losing. It was at this point that Garnett requested a trade. Garnett had a slash line of 22.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.7 blocks heading into the 2007 summer.
Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum were part of a trade deal presented by the Lakers. Odom had just finished a season in which he averaged 15.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. After being chosen with the No. 10 overall choice in the 2005 NBA Draft out of high school, Bynum was entering his second season in the league. In 21.9 minutes per game, Bynum has only averaged 7.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks. In return for Garnett, this deal would have drastically changed Minnesota’s frontcourt.
A Former Friendship Was Important
According to the story, head coach Phil Jackson revealed that Dr. Jerry Buss approached him and told him that he and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor had a handshake deal. Garnett was rumored to be coming to Los Angeles, but GM Kevin McHale had not confirmed anything. However, McHale and Celtics GM Danny Ainge were good friends and former teammates, and Ainge had approached McHale about a trade.
Here’s an extract from Part 2 of KG, the Oral History:
Celtics GM Danny Ainge: We had countless chats [about Garnett] throughout the years since Kevin and I were such good friends. We felt Paul [Pierce] and KG would be an excellent team. They seemed to work well together, in our opinion. So we spoke about whether Paul should move to Minnesota or KG should come to Boston, and which is the greatest option.
When I learned that [Garnett] was available and wanted to leave Minnesota, I put a major push on him. Phil Jackson, Lakers head coach, 1999-2004; 2005-2011: When I understood that [Garnett] was available and wanted to leave Minnesota, I put a huge push on him (to acquire him).
Cleveland was involved, according to Andy Miller. They finished a distant third in the competition.
Glen Taylor: L.A. was desperate for him. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted him in the West, to be honest. I believed I was attracting better players. I was under the impression that L.A. would not be able to provide me with the same level of talent as Boston.
The Lakers put together a package centered on multi-talented forward Lamar Odom and 19-year-old center Andrew Bynum, a promising second-year player who would go on to become an All-Star. However, Odom had a history of erratic conduct, while Bynum had yet to establish himself.
Al Jefferson, another terrific but still-developing young center, was included in the Celtics’ deal, along with many other young players and draft selections.
Dr. [Jerry] Buss approached Phil Jackson and stated, “Taylor and I have a handshake deal that he would come to L.A. McHale, on the other hand, has yet to agree.” “Well, that’s a nice reason,” I answered. As a business owner, you constantly say, “I’ll do this, but…” So I held out hope that he would join the Laker organization.
Taylor: I was a bit terrified of Lamar Odom. Bynum was supposed to be a superstar, in my opinion.
Miller: I believe that, in addition to draft selections, McHale was searching for a core young component, and he was smitten with Al Jefferson at the moment.
Glen Taylor: The Lakers became the Celtics, and Boston became the Celtics. They both asked, “How much does [Garnett] want to be paid?” I also informed them how much he wanted to be paid. I informed them of the nature of the deal. And those two groups indicated they’d go ahead and do it.
Over the years, Ainge says he had multiple talks with Garnett. Pierce and Garnett, according to Ainge, would make a wonderful discussion. He also mentioned Pierce joining the Timberwolves, but he was able to maintain Pierce and bring in Garnett in the end.
With that stated, Garnett revealed that he was close to joining the Laker organization, but he had a different narrative to tell.
“To be honest, I was really close to coming to LA,” Garnett remarked. “What bothered me about the Laker scenario at the time was Kobe [Bryant] and Phil [Jackson].” They were rather awful. I didn’t want to bring myself into that scenario. It was all my decision. I didn’t want to be a part of it since there was so much going on.”
Garnett described the relationship between Bryant and Jackson as “very nasty.” He didn’t want to get involved in that argument, so who knows whether Garnett had a voice in it after the fact, given how close Ainge and McHale were.
If a trade occurs, the following is the projected lineup for the Lakers.
Derek Fisher (PG)
Kobe Bryant, SG
Luke Walton (SF)
Kevin Garnett, PF
Vladimir Radmanovic (C)
Odom was more of a game-finishing player for the Lakers, although he was considered a starter at the time. With Lamar Odom out, Luke Walton will be thrust into a more prominent position. Walton was coming off a season in which he averaged 11.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and shot 38.7% from three-point range while starting and playing over 30 minutes per game. For a tiny forward, they aren’t awful figures.
Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant would be able to control the backcourt with ease. Bryant had just finished a season in which he averaged 31.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. It would have been a terrifying combination if he had been paired alongside Garnett. Garnett was a greater player than Pau Gasol, which is no slight on Gasol, who is a Hall of Famer in his own right. That was the level of KG’s performance at the moment.
The center location, on the other hand, may be up in the air. The previous season, Vladimir Radmanovic had started 15 games. It’s difficult to believe the Lakers would be comfortable with Kwame Brown beginning. Smush Parker might have been brought back, and the Lakers could have gone small with Parker and Fisher at guard, Bryant and Walton at forward, and Garnett at center. However, since Garnett was a superior power forward, the starting role would have been split between Radmanovic and Brown.
If a trade occurs, the following is the projected lineup for the Timberwolves.
Randy Foye, PG
Corey Brewer (SG)
Marko Jaric (SF)
Lamar Odom (PF)
Andrew Bynum (C)
After a strong rookie season in which he averaged 10.1 points per game, Randy Foye started the 2007-2008 season as the unquestioned point guard. Foye was the No. 7 overall choice in 2006, and he was assigned command of the team. Former Florida star Corey Brewer sat next to him, a two-time NCAA champion fresh out of college. Brewer was starting his rookie season after being selected seventh overall in the 2007 NBA Draft.
Outside of Jaric, there weren’t many choices at small forward, therefore he’d be the obvious starter. Adding Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum to the mix would have given the club some much-needed youth going forward. Consider this: Foye, Brewer, and Bynum might have formed the foundation of the team heading forward. With the correct development, this club may have developed into the modern-day Suns with the addition of a superstar down the line.
During this period, Bynum had a lot of promise. Foye and Brewer were unknown, but the Timberwolves would have been in the lottery anyway, if it hadn’t been for the presence of young talent. In 2007-2008, the Timberwolves only won 22 games. This squad would have won exactly as many games, but it would have had a genuine core. Kevin Love was selected in the 2008 draft. Over time, a combination of Foye, Brewer, Love, and Bynum may have matured into a competitive force.
Everyone, save the Timberwolves, benefited from this in the end. The Lakers maintained Odom and Bynum, who both played key roles in the team’s three-year run to the Finals, which includes championship rings in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, Odom was named Sixth Man of the Year, but his career was disrupted after he learned that the Lakers had attempted to trade him to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Chris Paul.
From 2007 through 2012, Bynum was a fantastic player for the Lakers, with his finest season coming in 2011-2012, when he averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds. After that year, Bynum only lasted two more seasons, one with the Cavaliers and the other with the Pacers. Bynum, who is 34 years old, hasn’t played in the league since 2013.
In 2008, the Celtics won the NBA title by beating the Lakers in the Finals. Garnett had a scoring average of 18.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. The Lakers traded for Pau Gasol in the middle of the season, and he ended up being the essential missing link in the team’s dynastic runs. Garnett would play with the Celtics until 2013, when he was traded to the Nets along with Jason Terry and Piece for a slew of draft selections that would permanently alter the Nets’ franchise.
Minnesota, on the other hand, did not make the playoffs until the 2017-2018 season. The players acquired as part of the transaction never materialized. Al Jefferson led the Timberwolves in scoring and rebounding in his first season, averaging 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds. In his second season, he repeated his feat, although he only lasted three years in all, with no postseason appearances. Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, and Theo Ratliff were all solid contributors, but there were no true stars on the team.
The Timberwolves finally won the lottery and acquired Kevin Love, who went on to become the league’s best rebounder, but even he couldn’t compare to Garnett. What about the two first-round selections? Jonny Flynn was one of the NBA’s biggest draft busts, while Wayne Ellington was a solid starter but not a star who could lift Minnesota out of the abyss.
The Golden State Warriors attempted to trade Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for Chris Paul, but CP3 refused, saving the Warriors’ dynasty.
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