There was the usual frenzied activity at the NBA trade deadline, with phone lines burning up between the offices of general managers across the league. You have buyers, you have sellers, and you have stand patters.
But this year, you have a genuine feel-good story; Kevin Garnett is going back to where it all started for him 20 years ago.
Garnett, an almost certain first ballot Hall of Fame inductee, spent his first 12 years with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Today, he was traded from Brooklyn back to the Wolves in exchange for power forward Thaddeus Young.
Garnett was the fifth player chosen in the 1995 NBA draft and the first player to skip college and go right into pro ball from high school since 1975 when Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby were selected. He had spent most of his high school years in South Carolina, but for his senior year, his family moved to Chicago where he starred at perennial basketball power Farragut.
He spent 12 years with the Timberwolves, taking the new franchise to the playoffs 8 times. He was traded to Boston in 2007 and won an NBA title with the Celtics in 2008. But time took its toll on the big man, and this year — his 20th season — he was relegated to a bench role with the Brooklyn Nets.
In his prime, he was unstoppable. At 6’11” and possessing the wingspan of a 747, Garnett was a shot blocker extraordinaire and a defensive stalwart. Watching him play was like watching cool, clear water pour out of a pewter pitcher. He was graceful, fluid, and he accomplished incredible feats of athleticism without appearing to break a sweat.
It is unknown whether he will play another season. His knees are shot, and he labors getting around the court. But Minnesota fans won’t care. Given the horrible season they’re having — 11-42 — they will embrace their former hero and make him feel welcome no matter how long he remains playing.
Elsewhere at the deadline, Miami appeared to help themselves enormously by trading for the Phoenix Sun’s star point guard Goran Dragic, who was unhappy with his changed role with the Suns. The Heat also got Goran’s brother Zoran in exchange for the enigmatic Danny Granger, reserve center Justin Hamilton, and two Miami first round draft choices. Granger starred with Indiana for 9 seasons but has been injured much of the last 3 years. With the Heat, he was averaging less than half his career average of 16 points per game. The Heat also got themselves some depth by picking up veteran swingman John Salmons from New Orleans. They appear to have positioned themselves nicely for a stretch run to the playoffs.
In a massive three team deal, Oklahoma City point guard Reggie Jackson was dealt to the Detroit Pistons. As the saying goes…it’s complicated:
The Oklahoma City Thunder have traded Reggie Jackson to the Detroit Pistons in a three-team deal, a source confirmed to ESPN.com.
The Thunder will acquire Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter and forward Steve Novak, Pistons forward Kyle Singler and guard D.J. Augustin, with Thunder center Kendrick Perkins going to the Jazz, in addition to Grant Jerrett, rights to Tibor Pleiss a Pistons’ second-round pick and a protected future first rounder from the Thunder.
The Thunder are just starting to play well following a rash of devastating injuries to start the year. They are currently in 9th place, a half game out of a playoff spot. Can they be contenders> Don’t count any team out with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
The Suns were part of another 3 team deal, getting the Milwaukee Bucks fine young point guard Brandon Knight. The Suns sent 2 players to Milwaukee, reserves Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee. The third team in the trade, the Philadelphia 76’ers, received draft picks for sending point guard Michael Carter Williams, the reigning rookie of the year, to Phoenix. The Bucks are in the thick of the Central Division race for the first time in years and by bolstering their bench, they have given themselves a good shot to make the playoffs for the third time in the last decade.
It’s not likely that any of these deals will make a champion out any of the teams that dealt at the deadline. But at this time of the year, most general managers are realists and are beginning to think beyond this year and are starting to build for the future. In the end, building an NBA champion takes a combination of good drafts, good trades, and good free agent signings.
And a bit of luck too.