The proposed trade that would have sent Kevin Garnett to Boston, agreed to in principle by ex-teammates Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge, was taken off the table Thursday after Garnett got word to the Celtics that he doesn't want to play for them.
Garnett, according to sources close to the situation, is hoping for a trade to the Phoenix Suns if he has to leave the only team he has ever played for.
"The Boston trade isn't happening," Garnett's agent, Andy Miller, told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan. "If a trade were to happen, that's not a destination that we're interested in pursuing."
Suns general manager Steve Kerr told the Arizona Republic that he has been talking with the Wolves about acquiring Garnett, but said it would be "tough" to pull off.
It appears that Wolves management -- McHale and owner Glen Taylor -- is prepared for the first time to make a deal that would end the Garnett Era in Minneapolis after 12 seasons. Taylor, according to Wolves sources, has informed Garnett directly of that change in philosophy.
But Garnett will have a stronger-than-usual say in the destination if he is indeed moved before next season because of the ability to opt of his contract in the summer of 2008 and become a free agent just over a year from now if he forfeits his $23 million salary in 2008-09.
Without at least a strong indication that Garnett would be willing to sign an extension with the Celtics, Ainge would be parting with virtually every enticing trade chip Boston has for what amounts to a one-year rental.
Which pieces? The latest incarnation of the deal, according to sources, would have required the Celtics to send blossoming forward Al Jefferson, its No. 5 overall pick in next Thursday's draft and Theo Ratliff's cap-friendly contract in addition to Wolves alumnus Wally Szczerbiak and troubled guard Sebastian Telfair in exchange for Garnett and Wolves guard Troy Hudson.
"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]," said Miller, who informed the Wolves and
Celtics late Wednesday that his client had no interest in playing for Boston.
Garnett rejected the move even though it would put him in the easier-to-conquer Eastern Conference and even though he is said to be friendly with Celtics star Paul Pierce.
Pierce's agent, Jeff Schwartz, told ESPN.com's Chad Ford on Friday that Pierce would love to play with KG and is still hoping the Celtics find a way to bring in a star. But if the Celtics can't bring in a star, Schwartz said he thinks Pierce will ask for a trade from Ainge.
"Danny's got to make a decision," Schwartz said. "It just won't make sense to keep Paul if the Celtics can't compete for a championship. They should trade him and get young players that can help them rebuild."
Garnett has said for years that he doesn't want to leave his beloved "Sota" and has consistently refused to push for a trade.
Yet he is bracing for a trade now, after hearing of Taylor's new stance, which is said to have only increased his growing frustration with Taylor and McHale.
And Garnett, sources say, wants to move to a warm-weather city and a team that can claim legitimate championship potential.
All of which should help explain why the Suns are No. 1 on his list.
Another big factor: Garnett and Suns guard Steve Nash, sources say, 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.
The Wolves and Suns have also discussed a Garnett trade. The Wolves, though, naturally want to trade Garnett out of their conference if they can.
If it has to deal with the Suns -- given the strong possibility Garnett won't sanction a move elsewhere -- Minnesota is expected to demand that Phoenix part with Amare Stoudemire in the exchange, as well as a first-round pick from Atlanta in the 2008 draft that is fully unprotected.
It's considered unlikely that a Suns package built around Shawn Marion and that draft pick would be enough to pry Garnett away. Complicating matters further, Marion also has the right to become a free agent after the 2007-08 season and has also let it be known that he doesn't want to play in Minnesota or Boston, sources say. That stance quickly killed the possibility of a three-way deal involving Minnesota, Phoenix and Boston.
The Suns, meanwhile, are understandably hesitant to part with Stoudemire and have tried unsuccessfully to strike a deal without giving him up. Even though Garnett would certainly help Phoenix in the short term by supplying an instant boost of veteran savvy, while also likely improving team chemistry and addressing their biggest weakness -- matching up with San Antonio's Tim Duncan -- Stoudemire is only 24 and would appear to have limitless potential after making the most high-flying comeback from microfracture knee surgery that the league has ever seen.
Although Miller declined to specify a team when asked where Garnett would prefer to be dealt -- "Too early," he said -- it's believed that Phoenix will increase its efforts between now and Thursday's draft to assembling a Stoudemire-less package to satisfy Minnesota's requirements, perhaps by pulling in another team or two.
Or perhaps they'll reverse course and surrender Stoudemire, which would finally lead to a real Garnett deal after ceaseless KG trade speculation over the past several years.
Garnett has "a good handle on the possibility of being
traded," Miller said. "Kevin is an extremely loyal person, and loyalty is not a common factor among pro athletes, but in this situation he understands he has to put his long-term considerations ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves'
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.