By Ben Golliver
Trade talks between the Celtics and Clippers that center on Kevin Garnett are back on, according to multiple reports.
There are differing factions within the Celtics and Clippers on the prudence of the deal, but the two teams have been in regular contact about the possibility, sources said. Nevertheless, the biggest hurdle could ultimately center on Garnett's willingness to waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal to the Clippers.
Because of his home in Malibu, and a close relationship with Clippers guard Chauncey Billups, there's hope that Garnett, a 15-time All-Star, could be coaxed into accepting a trade if an agreement is reached, sources said.
ESPN.com reports on Twitter that the Clippers are resisting that particular package and have another in mind.
[Clippers coach] Vinny Del Negro wants [Kevin Garnett], willing to give Bledsoe/Jordan for him. Clips front office totally against the move. Front office has final say.
Earlier this month, the Sporting News reported that the two teams were discussing a potential swap of Garnett for Bledsoe and Butler. That report was quickly denied in multiple publications. Within a few days, Garnett had pledged allegiance to the Celtics.
“I just want to say that I love my situation here,” Garnett said, according to the Boston Globe and WEEI radio. ”I don’t know what all your sources, or whoever’s making up these bull—- — articles about me getting traded to Denver and all these other places. I bleed green and I’ll continue to do that, and if it’s up to me, then I’m going to retire a Celtic. I just want everybody to know that. Keep it real, alright?”
Garnett repeated that sentiment to reporters during an All-Star availability on Saturday, saying that he had no plans to waive his no-trade clause under any scenario.
Garnett, 36, is averaging 15.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Bledsoe, 23, is averaging 9.6 points, 3.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game. Jordan, 24, is averaging 9.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Cashing in Garnett, who has two years remaining on a contract that will pay him roughly $12 million per year, for a quality starting center and a promising young guard would be a fine return for Boston. Ditching him for a package that lacks a truly desirable piece -- such as the reported Green, Turiaf and Butler combination -- makes far less sense. Those two scenarios represent opposite ends on a fairly vast spectrum of possibilities; can the two teams negotiate out the differences?
Even though a Bledsoe/Jordan package represents a high price, there's sense in it from the Clippers' perspective. Bledsoe is underutilized and risks being shut out down the stretch and in the postseason now that Chauncey Billups is back in the lineup and with Del Negro appearing to favor his veterans in a crowded backcourt. Jordan is a great teammate, an improved scorer, a solid rebounder, a good rim protector and an exceptional alley-oop finisher. He's also a major liability down the stretch because he's shooting free throws at a 42.9 percent clip.
Adding Garnett would give the Clippers an experienced low-post defensive presence capable of playing all four quarters while also adding a pick-and-pop option on high screens with Chris Paul. The Blake Griffin/Garnett big man combination would seem preferable to the Griffin/Jordan duo, all things considered on both ends of the floor. Garnett has a title to his name and countless playoff battles under his belt, a nice plus for a team with its eyes on making postseason noise. This would be a win-now move for a Clippers squad that currently looks no better than third in the West as is. Keeping Garnett in the fold for the next two years would give the veteran-laden team a solid multi-year championship window, assuming good health.
Meanwhile, on the other coast, the ceiling collapsed on the 2012-13 Celtics season when Rajon Rondo was lost to a season-ending knee injury. Subsequent season-ending injuries to Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa added to the pain. Bledsoe, currently in the third year of his rookie deal, could function as a stand-in starter during Rondo's absence and then shift to a major minutes role off the bench once the All-Star returns next season. A Bledsoe/Avery Bradley combination would be nothing to sneeze at going forward. That's a lot of athleticism, defensive intensity and potential in one backcourt.
Jordan would enter the hole in Boston's middle that would be created with Garnett's departure; after years of making due with aging options, minimum salary stiffs and small ball lineups, Celtics coach Doc Rivers might welcome Jordan, a major athlete whose best days are in front of him. Jordan's contract runs for two more seasons, offering potential trade partners, in theory, enough time to get him acclimated to their surroundings but not so much time that he would represent dead weight if things didn't work out.
The whole concept, which is justifiable but identity-changing for both sides, all hinges on Garnett. It seems unlikely he would do an about-face after making it clear that he wants to retire as a member of the Celtics, but he's been difficult to read recently. He seemed to possibly hint at retirement in post-game comments this week in discussing what he sees as his final All-Star appearance, only to back off those statements a bit during a media availability session on Friday in Houston. Who knows exactly what Garnett is thinking? That's a great question and one that will decide whether these rumors develop into an actual move by Thursday's trade deadline. If he stays true to his recent loyalty pledges, there's nothing to see here.