The Celtics would have liked to keep Al Jefferson. They would have liked to keep their two first-round picks in the 2009 draft, and the other four players (Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and Gerald Green) they sent to Minnesota in the blockbuster deal that drastically changed their roster and franchise’s history.
But the Celtics did get Kevin Garnett in return for trading 31 percent of their 2006-07 roster, and no one said the cost of a 17th championship would be cheap.
Now nearly two years and fourth months since the first and only seven-for-one trade in NBA history, the Celtics seem to be using the 2009-10 regular season as a formality on their way to a title shot this spring. The Timberwolves haven’t exactly experienced the same success since parting ways with their franchise player.
On Monday night, the Timberwolves were embarrassed in a 41-point loss to the Warriors — a 146-105 blowout that saw Minnesota tie a record for the most points allowed in the history of its franchise.
"It’s an embarrassment," Jefferson told the Star Tribune.
Jefferson could be speaking those same words about his time with the Celtics, had Danny Ainge not been able to complete the deal for KG on the second attempt. Instead, the Timberwolves have become what the Celtics were before landing KG, and what they still might be had they never landed him.
With the Celtics flying high in the Eastern Conference and faced with only a handful of teams as real obstacles in their way of an 18th title, it's time to look back at the pieces of the KG puzzle that ended up in Minnesota, and find out what they have accomplished and where they are now.
Before Jefferson ever stepped foot on the court for the Timberwolves, he signed a five-year, $65 million extension. He averaged 21.0 points per game in his first season with his new team, and looked to be even better in '08-09. After playing in 50 games last season, Jefferson suffered a torn ACL in his right knee and missed the rest of the season. The one player required in the deal for KG has been everything and more for the Timberwolves. But he is growing tired of playing for a losing franchise — the same way the man he was traded for did.
Along with Jefferson, Gomes is the only other part of the deal that panned out for the Timberwolves, and that is probably why he is still in Minnesota. Since arriving in Minnesota, Gomes has not missed a single game, averaging 12.8 points per game since changing jerseys. The former Providence College standout is one of the focal points in the ongoing rebuilding project in Minnesota, and has lived up to the potential that was expected of him.
After being sent to Minnesota, Telfair enjoyed his most successful season in '07-08, averaging 9.3 points and 5.9 assists per game. On July 22, 2008, the Timberwolves re-signed him to a three-year deal, but just under a year later, Telfair was shipped to the Clippers with Craig Smith and Mark Madsen for Quentin Richardson. Now in his first year with the Clippers, Telfair is averaging 6.7 points and 3.4 assists per game.
Now with the San Antonio Spurs, Ratliff was waived by Minnesota on Feb. 29, 2008, before returning to the Detroit Pistons (where he began his career) just four days later. After playing just 16 games with the Pistons in 2007-08 and 26 games total that season, Ratliff's contract expired and he signed with the 76ers for 2008-09. Since leaving the Celtics, he has played in 77 games over two-plus seasons, averaging 2.7 points per game.
In 2007, Green became a fan favorite as the NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion. Now, he is out of basketball. Green rode the bench after arriving in Minnesota and was traded to the Rockets on Feb. 21, 2008, before being released on March 8. He signed with the Mavericks that summer, where he played in 38 games in 2008-09. But now Green is out of the NBA after averaging just 5.1 points per game since being packaged in the Kevin Garnett deal.
It almost seems comical that all the Celtics needed to do to raise another banner was trade Jefferson. The complimentary pieces, aside from Gomes, haven’t panned out, and the draft picks were expendable to receive one of the most dominant players in the game in return.
Two summers ago, the Celtics were having a tough time making Paul Pierce happy with a subpar supporting cast. The most prestigious franchise in the NBA was quickly becoming the laughingstock of the league. They were becoming what the Minnesota Timberwolves are.
If not for the Garnett trade, the Celtics would be the Timberwolves.