How Al Jefferson was the key to the Kevin Garnett trade


It's been nearly 15 years since the Boston Celtics pulled off the massive trade that changed the course of the franchise.

On July 31, 2007, Boston sent Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair and two 2009 first-round picks to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett. The blockbuster formed a "Big Three" with Garnett joining Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in the C's lineup.

Garnett was instrumental in bringing Banner 17 to Boston in 2008, and on Sunday his Celtics legacy will be immortalized when his No. 5 jersey is raised to the TD Garden rafters. As we look ahead to the celebration, let's take a trip down memory lane and revisit how then-Celtics president Danny Ainge got Garnett in Green and White.

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Former C's head coach Doc Rivers says Al Jefferson, coming off a breakout third NBA season, was the key to getting the deal done.

"Kevin McHale wanted the best big man available. Al was the best young big man in the league," Rivers said. "Me, Kevin McHale, Danny went golfing, and when I finished golf I walked in my room and said, 'We're gonna get Kevin Garnett.' 'Cause all Kevin McHale kept talking about was Al Jefferson and how good Al Jefferson was.

"The one thing I learned as far as trades, once a guy loves one part of the trade, he doesn't even hear the other part."

It wasn't that easy, though. There were still some wrinkles in the proposed deal that needed to be worked out, even with Jefferson in the mix.

Celtics owner Wyc Groucbeck recalls Minnesota asking Boston to include its promising point guard in the trade.

"This Garnett deal was complicated and it took two weeks of negotiations with Minnesota to get it done," Grousbeck said. "And it was Danny and Kevin McHale, his great friend, and in the last two days it went to a different level. (Timberwolves owner) Glen Taylor wanted to talk to me because Danny didn't want to give him (Rajon) Rondo. Danny said 'Please take this call, please get the deal done.' And I said, 'Glen, Rondo won't even start for you. I hope we do the deal, but this is the final offer. Please call me by 5 if you're going to accept it.'

"I was too nervous. About 3:30 or so I went out for my favorite run on the beach on Martha's Vineyard. I did bring my phone, and the phone rang. And there's Glen, and he said, 'I want to be the first to congratulate on winning the 2008 NBA Championship.' And my mouth just fell open. I couldn't believe it. Looked around, there's no one within a mile of me and nobody to tell. I just stood there for a minute and just thought, 'We might actually get this done. We might actually get Banner 17.'

Sure enough, that's exactly what Garnett and the Celtics did. They went on to go 66-16 in the regular season and defeat the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals for the franchise's first title since 1986.

"The genius thing Danny did that probably doesn't get said enough is Rondo wasn't involved in that trade," Rivers said. "We do that same trade and add Rondo, we may not win it."

Garnett's jersey retirement ceremony is set to take place after Sunday's C's-Mavericks matchup, which is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. ET tip-off.

Hear the full Garnett trade story in the video above.

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