Ball Don't Lie - NBA

January 07, 2008

McHale ... McWronged!

Even though I disagree with him quite a bit, the Boston Globe's Peter May always comes through with an entertaining Sunday column. Still, I have to take issue with some of the dribs and drabs he threw out during yesterday's piece, which focused on the reshaping of the Boston Celtics. To start,

"When the original Garnett deal fell apart because KG didn't want to come here, Ainge went out and got Allen from Seattle."

Garnett didn't want to come to Boston because that would involve "coming to Boston," he just didn't want to be on a gutted team (Al Jefferson would have to be included in any trade bringing KG in) alone with Paul Pierce. It was a basketball decision, and the same one that Shawn Marion (also rumored to be heading to Boston to be alone with Pierce and no third-option) made. But that could just be iffy wording. The next part is a little more infuriating:

"But, as we know, Kevin McHale caved, accepting Theo Ratliff, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Jefferson, and two first-rounders (one of them being the one McHale had sent to Boston in the Wally Szczerbiak-Ricky Davis deal) for a first-ballot Hall of Famer and, as we now sit, this season's leader for Most Valuable Player. It has to rank as one of the best trades since Jack Warner pried Ingrid Bergman away from David O. Selznick for six weeks to film "Casablanca" - and agreed to exchange the services of Olivia de Havilland. As Cleveland general manager Danny Ferry accurately said, "Danny Ainge embarrassed us all." (Most of all his buddy, McHale.)"

I'll give Kevin McHale all the stick in the world, I called him the worst GM in the NBA last summer and meant it, but I don't understand for a second how Peter May thinks McHale "caved" in signing off on the deal that sent Kevin Garnett to Boston.

Cap space, a 20-and-12 23-year old, and first round picks? McHale screwed up in not taking the rumored offer from the Chicago Bulls from back in May of 2006 (Luol Deng, Tyson Chandler, second pick in the draft), but McHale didn't want to trade Garnett back then. In dealing with what was out there last summer, Peter is showing a lack of insight into how these things actually work. Where's the "cave?" Was there a better deal available? Are the Timberwolves better off retaining KG? Not sure, no, and hell no.

In the NBA, with different franchises going in different directions, and the salary cap rules that force teams into matching salaries for trades both big and small, you're rarely going to get a straight talent-for-talent, even deal. MVP candidates are never traded for other MVP candidates. And anyone who thinks that an MVP candidate trade that doesn't result in another MVP candidate being sent to the second team is a lopsided deal based on that fact alone should be summarily dismissed.

Usually, what they are traded for is the chance for a struggling team to start over; because, without expiring contracts, draft picks, young talent, and (especially) salary cap space, "starting over" isn't anywhere near as easy as it is in baseball (where you can trade someone making 15-million bucks for a double AA prospect, straight up) or football (where you can cut the excess fat without thinking twice and without paying anything more than the signing bonus).

What was McHale supposed to do? Wait until the Celtics threw in Rajon Rondo? Wait for the Cavaliers to offer LeBron James and a pick? How could he have done better?

Yes, McHale embarrassed himself by putting himself in a position to have to dump Kevin Garnett after years of lousy moves made it so the best KG could hope for was a .500 team to play for, but May doesn't mention that. He's going to make Danny Ainge look better than he actually his (Danny's done an outstanding job, recently, and doesn't need the help), and hope nobody notices this.

We noticed. 

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