On Sunday the Sporting News reported that the Boston Celtics had engaged in some discussions with the Los Angeles Clippers about possibly moving legendary big man Kevin Garnett to the Clips. On some levels, the rumored discussions checked off on all the boxes rumors need to. The Celtics are without Rajon Rondo for the foreseeable future, and even before Rondo’s season-ending ACL tear (and Boston’s four game winning streak following it) the team was struggling with its aging core. KG still has loads of game, All-Star level-game, and it would still find a home with a Clippers team that could still use some defensive mettle. On top of that, Garnett keeps an offseason home in Malibu.
Monday rolled around, though, and reports from both the Celtics and Clippers camps poured cold water on the KG-to-L.A. talk; though to be fair to Sporting News reporter Sean Deveney he went out of his way to de-hype his initial report as much as possible. SB Nation’s Paul Flannery wrote on Monday morning that the C’s “had no interest,” and that “it would take a lot more than that to get KG out of Boston and that’s before anyone gets around to asking him if he wanted to waive his no-trade clause to make it happen.” Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler were reported to be the bounty, and while we think that the Celtics (and know that Flannery) appreciates Bledsoe’s remarkable all-around game, this is still Kevin Garnett we’re talking about.
From out of California, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne tweeted that there’s not a lot of talking about Kevin Garnett going on at all:
To be clear, in a double negative sort of way: I'm not going to say Clippers acquiring KG is NOT an option. There's just nothing doing now
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 4, 2013
Of course, Garnett’s “no trade” clause gets in the way of everything. Garnett, frankly, isn’t likely to welcome change even if the Celtics go on to lose their next 14 games. This is the guy who missed the playoffs for three straight seasons in Minnesota before even entertaining the idea of being shipped to a new locale. He’s loyal, and you can’t call it “to a fault” when you’ve been through as much as he’s been through in Boston.
On top of that, would this even work as a winner for the Clippers? Chris Paul is often injured, same with backcourt mate Chauncey Billups, and trading a mini-LeBron in Bledsoe would take away a pretty nice fallback asset. The sheer dominance that Garnett’s on/off court stats suggest would help any team, but ask the 2004 Minnesota Timberwolves (playoffs version) how things go with a Garnett-led team that lacks a point guard to run the show.
For Kevin Garnett to be traded between now and the Feb. 21 trade deadline, a significant list of important tipping points would have to turn in a deal’s favor.
For one, the Celtics’ front office would have to determine that a Rondo-less life will knock them out of the playoff bracket they’d hoped since last summer to make noise in. A team would have to offer a significant package to make up for the loss of Garnett and the fact that Rondo might not be up to his usual stuff for all of the 2013-14 season. Garnett would have to go completely against character and waive his no-trade clause – and trust me, KG doesn’t mind going down with a ship.
Finally, there is Garnett’s salary – potentially up to $24.4 million combined next season and in 2014-15. He’ll probably be worth it, but in a league desperate to cut payroll in advance of stricter luxury tax penalties, it’s worth quibbling over; even understanding the fact that only half of KG’s 2014-15 salary is guaranteed. Some team, most likely the Celtics, will have to consider paying $12 million for a player that will turn 38 five months before the 2014-15 season starts.
That doesn’t mean other deals aren’t out there, especially as the NBA reacts to its first full year in the wake of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
FOX’s Sam Amico reports that the Houston Rockets could be after Indiana’s Danny Granger, if Granger’s knees ever return to full health. He’s been out since the preseason, and though his rehabilitation is nearly done, it will take him a while to work his way into the rotation. The Pacers have discussed bringing him off the bench as he works that left knee into shape, which is why we wonder about reports like this. The Pacers would be paying a lot for Granger’s bench help, should Paul George and Lance Stephenson continue to start, but you also have to consider the team’s 27th-ranked offense. Granger’s touch, however diminished, will be needed as Indiana attempts to win the Central over the Chicago Bulls.
In Chicago, with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer hurting, the Bulls are in need of depth up front – something to excuse Taj Gibson from having to play the 93 combined minutes he put in during a two-game stretch against the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks over the weekend. In tribute to the dearly departed '30 Rock,' Arlington Heights Daily Herald’s Mike McGraw touches on the rumor sending Rip Hamilton to Denver for Timofey Mozgov:
Hamilton certainly has some value to the Bulls. But with Derrick Rose on his way back, Hamilton is also expendable. Marco Belinelli or Kirk Hinrich could start at two guard and Hamilton leaving would open a chance for Jimmy Butler to play 30 minutes every night.
If Movgoz doesn't work, one popular name in free agency is Kenyon Martin, last seen playing an inconsequential role for the Clippers last season.
Martin, 35, has been linked to the Knicks, and the rumor is that he's holding out for more than the minimum salary. If that's the case, the Bulls are out. They can't pay more than the minimum because of salary-cap issues.
This deal also wouldn’t aid the Bulls in their attempts to get under the luxury tax, though it would go a long way toward providing the sort of help that Chicago lost last summer when Omer Asik signed with the Houston Rockets.
The big monster in the room? It’s always the Los Angeles Lakers (and not the defending champs), even if the disappointing squad fails to make the playoffs. In speaking with Newsday on Sunday, Laker GM Mitch Kupchak makes no bones about his team’s intentions:
Asked about his remaining options to salvage this season, Kupchak said, "We will not make a trade. We will not trade Dwight Howard. We have no intention of making a trade. It's unlikely that we'll make any trade with any of our principal players. To make another change at this time of the year being behind the eight-ball like we are, I think that would just make it more difficult. The talent is there. We have to find our way."
Of course, you can’t trade away a chance at favoring Howard’s whims and securing a league-best center this summer when Dwight becomes an unrestricted free agent, no matter how much 2012-13 may have disappointed. Howard can make more money as a Laker than with any other team, so for him to turn down a maximum offer from Los Angeles would be a shocker even if he and Kobe Bryant have it out in every practice between now and spring.
[Related: Are the Lakers using Steve Nash correctly?]
And it’s an easy sell because the market for Pau Gasol just isn’t really in the Lakers’ favor. Though Pau averaged 22.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and only turned the ball over three times in nearly 78 minutes’ worth of action during Howard’s two-game injury absence, teams aren’t banging down the door for the ability to pay Pau nearly $19.3 million next season. At age 33.
Then there are the teams that are already considering their options for July. Portland is still in the playoff hunt but the team has lost eight of its last 12 contests. Though Portland can’t comment specifically about players working for other teams, the word has gotten out that the Blazers will make a run at burly Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic:
There have been rumors floating around since last season that the Trail Blazers might have interest in the third-year center and Pekovic has heard those same rumors and considers it a compliment.
“That's really nice when you hear that other teams like Portland really want to bring you in,” Pekovic told CSNNW.com. “That means that I'm doing a good job and they like what I'm doing. That's something nice.”
Pekovic is a restricted free agent, so the Wolves can match any offer. Then again, after the Nicolas Batum fiasco from last summer, it’s pretty obvious that these two front offices don’t like each other. Which could have Portland signing Pek to a crazy poison pill contract with its double-figure cap space, and/or Minnesota matching all offers just to spite Portland, and paying for it later.
All of which we’ll have to remember in great detail when the NBA next locks its players out and cries poverty. Remember these Februaries, and those Julys, the next time the NBA cancels a November.
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