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Wolves making the right move

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Kevin Garnett trade that should be announced today offers many assets to the Minnesota Timberwolves, including Theo Ratliff, a 34-year-old center who should make a fine card-playing partner on the end of the bench with 34-year-...

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Kevin Garnett trade that should be announced today offers many assets to the Minnesota Timberwolves, including Theo Ratliff, a 34-year-old center who should make a fine card-playing partner on the end of the bench with 34-year-old forward Juwan Howard.

It was mid-June when the Wolves traded guard Mike James to Houston for Howard, and he expressed delight at this chance to fill a long-time ambition to play with Garnett.

Sorry about that, Juwan. Garnett will be the guy fulfilling an ambition to play with stars -- Ray Allen and Paul Pierce -- in Boston, and you're going to be stuck here in Minnesota, trying to help mentor the largest collection of neophyte players in the NBA.

Danny Ainge, the Celtics general manager, has received as much ridicule in Boston as his buddy Kevin McHale has in Minnesota. Yet, once this trade is complete, New Englanders will be required to give the GM credit for perseverance.

He was rebuffed by Garnett when attempting to trade for him last month. Ainge was not deterred. He traded the fifth overall pick (Georgetown's Jeff Green) to Seattle for Allen, figuring that Garnett wouldn't pass on the opportunity to play with Allen and Pierce, two of the league's best wingmen.

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He was right. Once Garnett decided Boston would be OK if it came with a big chance to win, all that has been required is a couple of Ph.Ds in salary capology to complete the deal.

McHale and his boss, Glen Taylor, had spent a couple of weeks before the June draft and several occasions since shrugging off the idea of a Garnett trade. There was no real desire on the team's part to trade Garnett, they said often.

This was a deception, at best. People on the fringe of the Wolves' operation kept telling reporters that Taylor wanted Garnett gone -- not for any personal reason, but because of this:

Garnett could have opted out of his contract after the 2007-08 season. To avoid that, the Wolves would have had to offer another extension for huge dollars. Taylor's team has been in salary cap Hades for years with Garnett's contract and would remain there for the foreseeable future with a KG extension.

So, the owner kept leaning on McHale to make the best possible trade, and if the details being reported by media throughout the land are accurate, the Wolves wound up with three players who will be helpful:

Al Jefferson, 22, a 6-10 forward who was tremendous over the final two months of last season; Ryan Gomes, soon to be 25, a usable 6-7 forward; and Gerald Green, 21, a 6-8 forward who still has time to live up to the raves he received coming to Boston out of high school two years ago.

There's also Ratliff, for salary-matching reasons, and 22-year-old Sebastian Telfair, a 6-foot guard who has proved to be more pain in the posterior than contributor in three years in the league.

The Wolves also will receive two No. 1 draft choices, one of them sure to be very good, although unfortunately it was their own. They had given a No. 1 to Boston in the Wally Szczerbiak-Ricky Davis (and a host of others) trade from the 2005-06 season.

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The trade will allow the Wolves to avoid eventually giving a lottery pick to Boston.

The immediate reaction from the Minnesota sporting public is outrage over the trade of Garnett. The level of anger was interesting, since Garnett and his teammates were the recipients of overwhelming apathy over the past two seasons.

Garnett teamed with Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell to lead the Wolves to the conference finals in 2004. He could not prevent a horrible fall to also-ran status. McHale did not have the imagination or the salary cap room to provide the reinforcements for Garnett to win here again.

Now, KG has Allen and Pierce, and a chance to go beyond the conference finals. And the Wolves have a chance somewhere down the road -- with Jefferson, Green, Randy Foye and Corey Brewer as a nucleus -- to be more than what they were in Garnett's final two seasons: a joke.

Sad to say, hoopheads, but I'm in that .08 percent of Twin Citians who look at the trade as outlined in media reports as the right move for our sick NBA franchise.

-- Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune

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