By Howard Ulman
BOSTON - Kevin Garnett gives Boston a new Big Three that brings the Celtics much closer to what their old Big Three delivered - an NBA title.
The Celtics, who have 16 championships but have gone without one for more than two decades, obtained the former MVP and 10-time All-Star on Tuesday in a 7-for-1 deal - the NBA's biggest trade for one player.
Boston sent the Minnesota Timberwolves forwards Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes and Gerald Green, guard Sebastian Telfair and center Theo Ratliff, two first-round draft picks and cash considerations. Besides Ratliff, 34, the other four are 22 or younger.
With Paul Pierce and Ray Allen already on the roster, the Celtics have been transformed from a promising collection of youngsters who had the NBA's second-worst record last season into an instant contender in the mediocre Eastern Conference.
"I am excited to become a Celtic," Garnett said. "It's wonderful to have the opportunity to play with players the quality of Paul and Ray. The Celtics have had a proud tradition and now I hope that we can add to the legacy."
The Timberwolves get the Celtics' first-round pick in 2009, unless it is among the top three, and a return of Minnesota's conditional first round draft pick obtained in January 2006 when they sent Ricky Davis to the Timberwolves for Wally Szczerbiak. Minnesota also receives cash considerations in the deal.
The previous biggest NBA trade for one player came in 1999 when Houston obtained Scottie Pippen from Portland for six players.
The Garnett trade eclipses the latest one involving an NBA star, Allen Iverson. Philadelphia traded the guard and Ivan McFarlin to Denver last Dec. 19 for Andre Miller, Joe Smith and two first-round draft choices.
The Celtics won their last championship, the third with the original Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, in 1986. Two members of that club orchestrated Tuesday's blockbuster trade - Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge and Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale.
The key to the deal for Minnesota is Jefferson, whom the Celtics were reluctant to part with. He had a breakout season in 2006-07, his third with Boston, when he averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds after struggling with injuries. He joins a youth movement in Minnesota, which drafted forward Corey Brewer from Florida.
The teams had discussed a trade for the 6-foot-11 Garnett, the NBA's leading rebounder each of the past four seasons, before the June draft. But he didn't want to go to Boston, and the Celtics didn't want to give up Jefferson.
But the acquisition of Allen, 32, in a draft-day trade with Seattle to go with Pierce, 29, may have helped change Garnett's mind. It gave Garnett, 31, a better chance at a title after Minnesota missed the last three playoffs in the tough Western Conference.
The Timberwolves came within two wins of the NBA finals in 2004. Garnett averaged 24.2 points and a league-high 13.9 rebounds that season, joining Bird as the only players to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for five consecutive years.
But Minnesota has fired two coaches and not made the playoffs since. Garnett never said he was unhappy and never asked to be traded but expressed frustration with some of McHale's personnel decisions and challenged him to upgrade the roster.
Garnett was the fifth player drafted in 1995, coming out of Farragut Academy in Illinois and skipping college. He has averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds for each of the last nine seasons. He is among five players in NBA history with at least 19,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists. The others are Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley. He also is an outstanding defensive player and an excellent passer.
The Timberwolves had lost 60 games in each of the four seasons before Garnett arrived. But in his second season, he helped lead them to the first of eight straight playoff appearances.
Before his third season, Garnett got a six-year, $126 million extension in 1997. He has one year and an option left on his current contract.
With Garnett, seven-time All-Star Allen and five-time All-Star Pierce, the Celtics upgraded their profile in a sports market dominated by the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox.
In his four full seasons as executive director of basketball operations, Ainge has stockpiled youngsters. He could be patient and let them develop or speed the process through trades.
The Celtics have second-year point guard Rajon Rondo and could try to sign a veteran at that spot. Only nine players are under contract, although they are expected to sign second-round draft picks Glen Davis, a forward from LSU, and Gabe Pruitt, a guard from Southern California.