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Columnist
Did Bulls have a shot at Garnett? Probably not
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/2/2007 11:41 PM

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The new season is only a month old, but let's take a quick look to determine who got the best of this summer's Boston-Minnesota trade.

The Celtics and Kevin Garnett own the league's best record at 14-2 and a point differential that's through the roof at plus-13.7.

Minnesota, meanwhile, is an NBA-worst 2-13 and just lost to Memphis by 29 points Saturday.

It's a close call, obviously, though if a decision must be made today, I'd lean toward the Green and say the Celtics are better off. But as Jerry Krause used to preach, it takes at least three or four years to really make a fair judgment.

Since the Celtics are coming to town Saturday, we're bound to hear complaints that their success should belong to the Bulls. General manager John Paxson failed the franchise by not landing Garnett.

The thing is, there's a wide-spread belief around the league that the Bulls never had a chance. Garnett was either staying in Minnesota or going to Boston, because Timberwolves GM Kevin McHale played for the Celtics and wanted to hook up his good friend, Boston boss Danny Ainge.

The first person I heard suggest this theory is from Minneapolis and spent a number of years following the Timberwolves. There are also believers at the Berto Center.

"I think anyone in the league would tell you it was a done deal with Boston," said one agent who's dealt frequently with the Timberwolves.

McHale can do what he wants and may honestly believe he made the best deal possible. The point is, Garnett ending up in a Bulls uniform was probably more far-fetched than people realize.

Most everyone would agree that McHale could have gotten more for Garnett. He ended up with Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green and Theo Ratliff.

The Timberwolves also get Boston's 2009 first-round pick, which is likely to be No. 30, and get back the first-rounder they sent to the Celtics in the Wally Szczerbiak deal. That last item has limited value, since the pick Minnesota was giving up wouldn't have changed hands until at least 2010.

So this could essentially be seen as a one-for-one deal, with Jefferson the centerpiece. The 22-year-old power forward is off to a good start, averaging 20.1 points and 10.9 rebounds. Minnesota is also getting decent contributions from Telfair (9.7 ppg) and Gomes (9.2 ppg).

Back in 2006, the Bulls were willing to give up Luol Deng, Tyson Chandler and other pieces for Garnett. They acquired Viktor Khryapa from Portland that summer to add depth at small forward.

A year later, the Bulls were open to including Deng, Kirk Hinrich or Ben Gordon in a Garnett deal. Team sources indicated there were several conversations between the Bulls and Timberwolves. But whenever the discussions started getting specific, McHale would change course and ask for more.

It was written here that Minnesota sent out word before the draft that it wanted to deal Garnett before owner Glen Taylor left for a trip to China, which turned out to be a bluff. Another report had the Timberwolves backing out of a deal sending Garnett to Golden State on draft night because they wanted Al Thornton with the No. 8 pick instead of Brandan Wright.

Then again, Boston supposedly agreed to send the No. 5 draft pick to the Timberwolves with the same group of players, then made the deal without the pick a few weeks later after Garnett balked at joining the Celtics. How did that make any sense for Minnesota?

Maybe there were legitimate attempts to deliver Garnett to the highest bidder and the Bulls had as good a chance as anyone. But a number of NBA insiders are skeptical.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com