As a player, McHale was one of the greats. A scoring machine down low, a dynamic player that could take over a game — one of the best power forwards ever seen. Along with Tim Duncan, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley, he's on Mount Rushmore.
As an executive, though, he'll be remembered a little differently. Speaking of all-time great power forwards…
McHale's legacy after a decade and a half running the Minnesota Timberwolves is all about one man: Kevin Garnett. McHale drafted him in 1995, spent 12 years trying to build a winner around him, and then, on July 31, 2007, he officially gave up. That's the day he traded KG to Boston, in return picking up Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, and a scrap heap of bench scrubs, expiring contracts and draft picks. The idea was to build not around KG, but around the younger, cheaper Jefferson.
How's that working out?
With Jefferson as the centerpiece of the franchise going forward, the Timberwolves won 22 games in 2007-08 and 24 games a year later. They're now well on their way to the worst record in the Western Conference this season.
McHale's legacy was ditching Garnett and bringing in Jefferson, the Garnett of the next generation. And now the latest buzz is that Jefferson could be finding a new home soon.
It's sad for McHale — as a player, he won three rings in six years with the Celtics, but as a general manager, he's seeing his work in Minnesota ridiculed and now undone.
The report from Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski earlier this week was that David Kahn, McHale's successor at the helm in Minnesota, called up Larry Bird in Indiana and offered a swap of franchise players, Jefferson for the Pacers' Danny Granger. Both sides have something to gain in that scenario — the Pacers get a much-needed boost down low, while the Wolves get a wing scorer and free up more opportunities for Kevin Love as the team's big man of the future.
Wojnarowski is one of the most respected basketball journalists in the business, but key players in the proposed trade are denying his scoop left and right. Kahn has since insisted that he has "no intention of trading any of our core players this season," and that Granger isn't on the radar.
Jefferson himself downplayed the gossip, calling it "just rumors" and brushing it aside without a second thought. He's been around the league long enough to know when these talks are serious.
But whether there's any truth to the Indiana rumor or not, here's what we do know: Something has to be done in Minnesota. The Wolves are floundering with Big Al as their leading man, and they've got to make a change if they ever want to build a winner.
When McHale was around, the Wolves held onto Garnett for far too long. KG spent 12 years in the Twin Cities as a great, great player — a first-ballot Hall of Famer, no question. But without assembling the talent around Garnett to make him a winner, they let him go to waste.
The same shouldn't happen to Jefferson. Jefferson is a great centerpiece for the Wolves on paper, but basketball teams don't always work the way you draw them up. The game's not played on paper — it's played by teams with complex chemistry issues. And right now, the chemistry isn't working in Minnesota.
You have to feel for Kevin McHale. He spent years and years assembling the Timberwolves team as we know it — and in a matter of months, we're seeing it crumble.
Three years ago, McHale gave up on his Wolves and decided to rebuild. In 2010, we might see that rebuilding process again.