The Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics, who nearly completed a blockbuster Kevin Garnett trade before the June draft, resurrected those talks in recent days and have agreed to a megadeal that is likely to be announced later Tuesday, according to NBA front-office sources.
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com on Tuesday afternoon that the required trade call has been completed by the league office, which should soon lead to a news conference in Boston that formally brings a blockbuster end to Garnett's 12-year association with the Wolves.
The Boston Herald reported on its Web site Tuesday that Garnett has agreed to a three-year extension with the Celtics, in addition to the two years left on contract, which would keep him in Boston through the 2011-12 season. The Herald also reported that Garnett is expected to arrive in Boston later Tuesday for a physical.
It is believed the deal also calls for the Celtics to ship youngsters Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Ryan Gomes to Minnesota, along with a future first-round draft pick and the return of a first-rounder the Wolves surrendered in the Wally Szczerbiak-Ricky Davis trade in January 2006.
The clincher, though, was Garnett's willingness to back off his well-chronicled refusal to play in Boston. Garnett's unwillingness to make a long-term commitment to the Celtics abruptly took this deal off the table in June, but McHale and his Boston counterpart, ex-teammate Danny Ainge, managed to resuscitate the trade and quickly move it to the brink of completion.
Among the details that held up completion were discussions between Garnett's camp and the Celtics about the contract extension and the nearly $5 million of a $6.75 million trade kicker salary-cap rules would forced Garnett to waive if the Celtics don't add any other players to the five already in the deal. But word began to spread Monday night that the Celtics had cleared those hurdles with Garnett and secured the long-term reassurance they are seeking from the 10-time All-Star.
Garnett effectively blocked the Celtics' first attempt at trading for him by making it clear, through agent Andy Miller, that he would opt out of the final year of his contract (worth $23 million) and leave the Celtics via free agency in the summer of 2008. Had the original trade gone through, Boston potentially would have been parting with blossoming Jefferson for a one-year Garnett rental.
But Garnett now is said to be amenable to the move, after the fiercely loyal 31-year-old learned how far along the Wolves had been in negotiations with Boston in June and with the Celtics responding to the breakdown of its initial pursuit by trading the fifth overall pick in the draft to Seattle for All-Star shooting guard Ray Allen.
Expensive as it would be to employ a trio of All-Stars -- especially with Garnett eligible for a four-year extension from his new team worth an estimated $116 million -- Celtics management has made the commitment to stray into luxury-tax territory for the opportunity to team Garnett with Allen and franchise mainstay Paul Pierce in an Eastern Conference for the taking. The Celtics would be expected to contend for an NBA Finals berth right away if the trade goes through, no matter what they put around that trio, after Cleveland advanced to the Finals in June without even a clear-cut second star next to LeBron James.
To get Garnett now would be an even bigger coup for the Celtics, given that they have added Allen and they no longer can include the No. 5 pick. McHale has a long-standing fondness for Jefferson, and sources indicate he has been angling for some time to retrieve the first-round pick Minnesota sent to Boston in the Szczerbiak deal. But Minnesota also badly wanted that No. 5 pick, which ended up going to Seattle in the Allen trade, enabling the SuperSonics to draft Jeff Green.
Garnett has said for years that he does not want to leave his beloved "Sota," as he calls it, consistently refusing to push for a trade even with the Wolves missing the playoffs each of the past three seasons. But Boston's cause might have been helped by the increasing possibility that Garnett's only options are becoming a Celtic or returning to Minnesota after being shopped so vigorously.
ESPN.com reported in June that Garnett would be hoping for a trade to the Phoenix Suns if he did have to leave the only team for which he has played. His reasons, according to sources: Garnett would prefer to play in a warm-weather city on a team with championship potential if he's forced to relocate. Another big factor: Garnett and Steve Nash have become good friends over the past few years, starting in 2005 when Garnett was one of the first players in the league to call Nash and congratulate him on his first MVP trophy.
Phoenix, the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers all joined Boston in making hard pushes for Garnett before the June 28 draft. Dallas also expressed serious interest despite its inability to realistically join the chase until after July 1, when the Mavericks again could manufacture at least one cap-friendly contract to offer the Wolves.
The Suns, though, apparently have dropped out of the bidding, unable to make a deal work financially and unwilling to part with Amare Stoudemire. Golden State's chances, meanwhile, took a hit when a potential three-team Garnett trade involving the Charlotte Bobcats collapsed on draft night, with the Warriors deciding they couldn't wait on a maybe and proceeding instead with the trade of Jason Richardson to the Bobcats.
Sources nonetheless insist that McHale has had the Celtics at the top of his list from the start, mainly because of his fondness for Jefferson and Minnesota's natural desire to move Garnett out of its conference. But some teams believe McHale's comfort in negotiating with Ainge, and corresponding reluctance to deal with other teams, was another key factor. The former Celtics colleagues remain close and frequently watched games together during the recent NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
The Wolves made the determination near the end of the playoffs that -- for the first time -- they would seriously entertain the prospect of trading Garnett according to team sources, with Garnett being informed of that change in philosophy directly by owner Glen Taylor.
Taylor announced in mid-July that the organization no longer was looking to move the NBA's 2004 MVP, telling the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Garnett's "preference was that we not trade him." Yet just days earlier, one rival executive insisted to ESPN.com that he knew "for a fact" that Minnesota remained intent on trading Garnett before the 2007-08 season starts.
Garnett rejected the initial move to Boston even though it would have put him in the easier-to-conquer East and even though he is friendly with Pierce. But he was undeniably stung by the near trade, sources said, which only increased his growing frustration with McHale and Taylor and left him bracing for a trade ever since.
"This would be a major trade that would affect a franchise and those in the organization, so you better be sure [he wants to be there long term]," Miller said last month after quashing the original trade.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Information from ESPN.com's Andy Katz and ESPN contributor Jackie MacMullan is included in this report.