Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2017

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Momentous trade finally took shape behind scenes at Summer League

A year later, Minnesota’s McHale says he’s OK with loss of Garnett

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  • Kevin McHale, Minnesota Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations, on trade talks about Kevin Garnett with Boston executive Danny Ainge a year ago in Las Vegas.

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  • McHale on how he feels about the way things unfolded.

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  • McHale on what he sees while watching Kevin Love on the Thomas & Mack Center court.

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  • McHale on what he especially likes about Kevin Love.

Sun Expanded Coverage

Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge sat in a corner of the Thomas & Mack Center a year ago as Phoenix Suns guard Marcus Banks torched the Cleveland Cavaliers for 42 points.

But the former Boston teammates didn’t notice former UNLV star Banks setting an NBA Summer League record.

The two NBA executives were too busy discussing Kevin Garnett.

In Las Vegas, McHale, vice president of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Ainge, boss of the Celtics, refreshed talks for a blockbuster trade that determined the outcome of the 2007-08 season.

The deal sent Garnett to Boston, where he led the Celtics last month to their 17th NBA championship.

At the Summer League this week, McHale sat in a corner of the Thomas & Mack and watched Kevin Love and other Minnesota hopefuls. Fans walked by wearing green Celtics jerseys with Garnett’s name and number 5 on the back, but the Timberwolves exec said he didn’t notice.

Asked to reflect on last summer’s trade, McHale said he’s satisfied with how it unfolded.

“We didn’t make the playoffs for a couple years with Kevin,” he said. Actually, Minnesota had just missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season. “We had a high payroll. Knowing he wanted an extension, our owner was not prepared to go in that direction. He wanted to rebuild.”

Getting something for Garnett before he could leave as a free agent was a major factor for Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.

“At a certain point, you have to look at your team and decide what direction you’re going. That was the direction we went,” McHale said.

Ainge had been trying to pry Garnett from Minnesota for more than a year. It became a possibility the weekend after the June 28 draft last summer, when Garnett learned of Taylor’s intention to rebuild with younger, cheaper players. The deal gained momentum in Las Vegas.

Garnett dismissed potential trades to the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors. His interest in Boston, which acquired shooter Ray Allen from Seattle on draft day, increased.

When they arrived in Las Vegas on July 5, Ainge and McHale renewed talks about Garnett. Four days later, they sat as Banks lighted up the scoreboard. Ainge was oblivious to the action as he ran proposals by McHale.

McHale listened.

“We refreshed the deal a little bit, as to what it would take,” McHale said. “Danny and I laid down a lot of parameters during the draft. Then it just kind of happened.”

Two weeks later, Ainge visited Garnett’s home in Malibu. They hammered out an extension in which the 10-time All-Star would earn almost $105 million over the next five seasons.

McHale received Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, two first-round draft picks and cash from Ainge at the end of July. It was the first time so many players had been traded for one in the NBA.

McHale has not heard from Garnett since he won his first title. Ainge, named the NBA’s executive of the year, hasn’t rung with a big “thank you” either.

“But I’ve talked to Danny when they won 20 games, too,” McHale said. “He’s a very good friend.”

No doubt, Ainge would say the same of McHale.

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