It was recently revealed in an oral history of Kevin Garnett's NBA career that the future hall-of-famer was set to join the Los Angeles Lakers in 2007. The article, written by Howard Beck for Bleacher Report, utilizes a number of different NBA personalities to tell the story of Garnett's journey from a teenage rookie to the grizzled veteran he is today.
In 2007 the Wolves were stuck in the mire of mediocrity, having failed to reach the playoffs and with little hope of improving the roster around their star. The Lakers, meanwhile, were in a funk of their own after Kobe Bryant demanded a trade and their future was largely dependent on the development of young center Andrew Bynum.
It was under those conditions that the two teams discussed a deal that would have brought Garnett to Los Angeles in exchange for Bynum and Lamar Odom, the versatile forward who the Lakers had acquired in the trade that sent Shaqulle O'Neal to Miami.
Here is a Lakers-related excerpt from the article:
Danny Ainge, Celtics GM: Because Kevin and I were such close friends, we had numerous conversations over the years [about Garnett]. We realized that Paul [Pierce] and KG would be a great combination. We thought that they really complemented each other well. So we discussed the possibility of Paul going to Minnesota or KG coming to Boston, like which way is the best way to do it.
Phil Jackson, Lakers head coach, 1999-2004; 2005-2011: When I realized that [Garnett] was available and wanted to leave Minnesota, I put a big push on (to acquire him).
Andy Miller: Cleveland was involved. They were a distant third in the whole thing.
Glen Taylor: L.A. really wanted him. Well, I didn't know if I wanted him in the West. I thought I was getting better players. I thought L.A could not give me the players that Boston did.
The Lakers offered a package built around multi-skilled forward Lamar Odom and 19-year-old center Andrew Bynum, a promising second-year player who would eventually become an All-Star. Odom had a history of flaky behavior, however, and Bynum was unproven.
The Celtics' package was built around another talented, but still-developing young center, Al Jefferson, along with several other young players and draft picks.
Phil Jackson: Dr. [Jerry] Buss came to me and said, "I have a handshake agreement with Taylor, that he's going to come to L.A. But McHale hasn't concurred yet." So I said, "Well that's a good excuse." You always, as an owner, say, "I'll do this, but ..." So I kept that hope out there, that he was gonna be a part of the Laker organization.
Taylor: Odom, I was a little afraid of. I thought Bynum was gonna be a star.
Miller: I think that what McHale was looking for, on top of picks, was a core young piece, and he was infatuated with Al Jefferson at the time.
Glen Taylor: It became the Lakers, and it became Boston. And they both said, what does [Garnett] want to get paid? And I told them what he wants to get paid. I told them the kind of contract. And those two teams said they would do it.
When Garnett was eventually traded to Boston many Lakers fans called foul, claiming that Minnesota Timberwolves GM Kevin McHale and Celtics GM Danny Ainge, former teammates in Boston, were conspiring to keep KG away from their old rivals in Los Angeles. Ainge's comments do lead credence to that claim, as he admits that his friendship with McHale led to them discussing ways to bring Paul Pierce and Garnett together.
However, Wolves owner Glen Taylor also mentions not wanting to trade Garnett within the Western Conference, which was something the Lakers could sympathize with after shipping Shaquille O'Neal to the East Coast.
Still, the revelation that the late Dr. Jerry Buss and Taylor had a handshake agreement in place to deliver KG to the Lakers is certainly remarkable. Buss was always known for his ability to bring stars to Los Angeles, and Garnett would have been another one to add to his collection.
NBA Draft Lottery
NBA Draft Lottery
We can only imagine how different the NBA landscape would look today had the deal gone down. The Lakers might not have made the deal to land Pau Gasol, which means that Marc Gasol may have been brought in to play alongside KG and Kobe rather than landing in Memphis. A Lakers team featuring Bryant, Garnett, and a young Marc Gasol certainly would have been fascinating.
Additionally, the Celtics "Big 3" run would have never happened, which means that conceivably the Lakers back-to-back championships may have been a three-peat. Of course Lakers fans know all too well that sometimes the best teams on paper don't live up to expectations. It's entirely possible that the strong personalities of Garnett and Bryant may not have allowed for the same chemistry that Bryant had with the more mild-mannered Pau Gasol, and the experiment could have blown up.
The ripple effects of such a massive deal going down can never truly be calculated, but it's safe to say that the NBA landscape today would look completely different.
--Follow this author on Twitter @16ringsNBA