So, Kevin Garnett does not want to play in Boston? Stop the presses. Think Shawn Marion is clamoring to play here, either?
Both lads can opt out of their contracts after next season, which would mean they'd be Gary Payton -- one-and-doners in Boston. You don't give up your assets, however valuable they are deemed to be, for someone who is going to play here for one season.
It also defies logic -- then again, we are dealing with the Timberwolves and Kevin McHale -- that Minnesota would even talk to Boston (or anyone) about trading Garnett without first running it by the big guy. Given his contract situation, not to mention his history there, don't you think that conversation has to happen before the phone call is even made?
Anyway, the encouraging development to come out of the Garnett Diss is that the Celtics are actively shopping the fifth pick. They need to keep at it (but not for someone like Sebastian Telfair). If Danny Ainge drafts Yi Jianlian Thursday night, Paul Pierce's head is going to explode and he will turn into the Eastern Conference's Kobe Bryant Friday.
The Celtics obviously are looking for a high-grade veteran talent -- which they should -- and have some of the necessary ingredients: an expiring contract, a high pick in a deep draft, and some young bodies, one or two of whom may even be movable. Garnett is a bad idea if it means giving up Al Jefferson, because Garnett has maybe three productive years left (take a look at his minutes) while Big Al is only 22. I wouldn't make that trade.
For the same reason, Marion would not be a good fit, either. He's only 29, but he, too, has logged a lot of minutes and the style in which he has played -- and excelled -- for years is not the style the Celtics play. Plus, like Garnett, he has an opt-out clause after next season, which, you'd have to think, he wouldn't hesitate to exercise. Jefferson in that deal? No way.
Kobe? Forget about it. Jermaine O'Neal? He turns 29 in October and we know the new Indiana coaching staff would not object to a trade. But would Larry Bird deal O'Neal within the conference, and to the Celtics? Maybe he would if he could get Big Al and Delonte West. But O'Neal has an opt-out clause after next season as well and wants to play in Los Angeles.
But there is someone out there the Celtics might be able to obtain, a former All-Star who would give them a dimension they don't have and might not have any objection to playing in Boston: Andrei Kirilenko of the Jazz.
Yes, Kirilenko is coming off a tough season and, yes, there have been health concerns. The tough season has led to some interesting comments out of Salt Lake City, from the owner to the coach. Jazz boss Larry Miller said he figured Kirilenko wasn't going anywhere because he'd be hard to deal after this season with $60-odd million due him the next four years. Then, after Kirilenko complained in the Russian media about the way he was handled this season, Utah coach Jerry Sloan told the Salt Lake Tribune, "He's got to come and play . . . the bottom line is, how much do you like to win?"
Sounds like a perfect match, eh?
Kirilenko is 26. He was an All-Star in 2004. He would give the Celtics something they lack -- a defensive presence and shot-blocker -- and you'd have to think the Jazz would at least entertain a proposal in which Boston surrendered the fifth pick, Theo Ratliff and his wonderful, expiring contract, and a couple young-uns. Boston might have to take back a bad contract (Matt Harpring or Derek Fisher) to make it balance, but not necessarily.
If the Celtics sent Gerald Green, West, the fifth pick, and Ratliff for Kirilenko and the 25th pick, it'd work. You could also insert Jefferson and Telfair into the mix instead of Green and West, but, again, I'd think long and hard about dealing Jefferson.
Why would Utah do it? Well, for starters, the Jazz would be happy to get rid of the Kirilenko contract, in part because they're already paying massive sums to Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. There seems to be some concern as to whether Kirilenko and Sloan can coexist. Utah also has to re-sign Deron Williams in the next year or two and, given the way he's going, he's going to demand big bucks.
The Celtics would be absorbing a big contract, but not nearly as big as Garnett's or O'Neal's. They'd also avoid having to re-sign a pair of their kids, which would account for untold millions. The money would basically be a wash this season, and after next season, Wally Szczerbiak's money comes off the books. In other words, they could do it and still avoid the dreaded luxury tax.
And once they make that trade, I would do what I could to turn the 25th pick into former Boston College center Sean Williams (by moving up via another trade). With him and Kirilenko on board, the Celtics could amp up their defense considerably and not lose a whole lot of offense. And with Kirilenko in the East, he could be an All-Star once again.
Secret weapon in Detroit
Joe Dumars isn't spending any of his free time these days watching video of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.
"That's called self-mutilation," he wrote by e-mail, referring to the game in which LeBron James pretty much beat Dumars's Detroit Pistons single-handedly.
It still peeves him that the Pistons let it happen. Detroit has been on a remarkable run -- five straight appearances in the conference finals -- and Dumars already has a game plan to keep it going. First order of business: re-sign Chauncey Billups. Next up, re-sign Amir Johnson. Huh? Who?
That would be the second-year, second-rounder who played a grand total of 124 minutes this past season.
And 39 minutes the year before that. But Johnson is an active 6-foot-10-inch guy and had some decent games in the Development League.
Dumars expects him to be a contributor next season.
"There is no way we are going to allow that kid to get away from us," Dumars told ESPN's Chad Ford in a podcast. "We want him here for years to come. He has a tremendous upside."
The Pistons selected Johnson right out of Westchester High School in Los Angeles with the 56th pick in 2005. (He had committed to play for Rick Pitino at Louisville.)
He averaged 17.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in 17 games for the Fayetteville Patriots in 2005-06. (That's the same team the Celtics' Gerald Green played for in the D-League.)
Johnson went for 20 points and 10 rebounds when the quasi-Pistons beat the crypto-Celtics in the final game of last season at TD Banknorth Garden.
Look for the Pistons to work Johnson and Jason Maxiell, their No. 1 pick in 2005, into the rotation next season, even more so if Rasheed Wallace is traded.
Detroit also has two picks in the first round of this draft, the 15th (from Orlando) and the 27th.
Little-known 7-3 Romanian is on the rise in draft
It's almost impossible for a player to slip through the cracks and emerge at draft time as a possible first-rounder.
Every team scouts everyone and everywhere, from the biggest colleges to the club teams in Liechtenstein. Then how is it that a 7-foot-3-inch Romanian has emerged in the past month to the point where he could crack the first round?
It's true. The lad's name is Ionut Dragusin, and he has been unveiled in Houston, where he is working out with John Lucas. He's draft-eligible (which means he's 22) and he's represented by the Wasserman Media Group, which last year added high-powered Arn Tellem and his stable of studs to its portfolio.
You won't find Dragusin's name in the draft book the NBA released, and you won't find his name on many mock drafts. But one NBA executive predicted, "He is going to get drafted, and you can never tell, he might even go late in the first round."
Dragusin played last year in Spain -- barely. As best as can be determined, he totaled 36 minutes in nine games for Bruesa, which finished last in Spain's top league and thus is due to be relegated to a lower league next season. Dragusin sort of looks like a poor man's Darko Milicic right now, a gangly lefthander who can hit a 15-footer but doesn't have much around the basket.
He worked out against Boston College's Sean Williams in Houston last Monday and looked lost when he (a) had to guard someone, or (b) was guarded by someone.
But he's young, tall, and reasonably coordinated to the point where a team wouldn't risk much by taking him in the second round.
The problem is, what do you do with him then? It's hard to know whether Dragusin will develop in Europe, where "long term" for most coaches is the next possession.
And the history of little-known, rarely playing Euros is not good in the NBA. Think Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Pavel Podkolzine. But, as the saying goes, you can't coach height.
Picking through the options
So what do the Celtics do if they don't trade the fifth pick? Around the league, the consensus seems to be that Danny Ainge is high on Chinese big man Yi Jianlian while Doc Rivers is partial to Georgetown's Jeff Green. Why no one wants Corey Brewer is beyond me, because if they do keep the pick, he'd be a great choice. Yi might need a couple of years to get acclimated to the NBA, and Rivers, understandably, does not want another futures pick. Both Green and Brewer appear NBA-ready but, of course, the Celtics' roster is stocked with swingmen, so someone would have to go. One option worth considering is moving one of those fellas (Gerald Green, Tony Allen, Ryan Gomes) for a first-round pick, but are any of those guys valuable enough to procure one? Meanwhile, teams with multiple picks are looking to dump some choices, so that might make it easier for teams like Toronto and Indiana to get into the draft. Currently, neither the Raptors nor Pacers have a first-round pick. Neither does Cleveland, Orlando, Dallas, or Denver.
A question of Net profits
Vince Carter has until Saturday to opt out of the final year of his contract, which would pay him a tidy $16,360,094 in 2007-08. "I expect to see Mr. Carter around noon on June 30," cracked Nets president Rod Thorn, for all indications are that Carter will, indeed, opt out and then sign a new deal. The trick, of course, is how much to give him going forward. The Celtics unhesitatingly showered the maximum on Paul Pierce, to the point where he'll average almost $20 million a year for three years starting in 2008-09 (when he will be 31). While Carter's camp would like the Nets to do likewise, don't expect them to bite. "We're hopeful we can re-sign him," Thorn said. Another option for Carter would be to sign somewhere else, possibly Orlando, which has the potential to free up a lot of cap room.
There were a couple of coaching moves with Celtic ties in the Continental Basketball Association last week. Kenny Anderson was hired to coach the Atlanta Krunk, who have a decided musical bent to them in that their principal owner is Freedom Williams, a Grammy winner, and the team president is Spyder Hughes, a hip-hop producer and artist. Atlanta is a new entry in the league. (In case you're wondering, there are 84 definitions of "krunk" in the urban dictionary, ranging from "wicked, above average" to "severe intoxication" to "cool, hip and fashionable." I think it must be the last one.) Meanwhile, the Great Falls (Montana) Explorers hired former Celtic Scott Wedman. Wedman coached in the ABA in 2003-04 and is the eighth member of the vaunted 1985-86 Celtics to become a pro head coach. A ninth, Jerry Sichting, is an assistant with the Timberwolves.
Peter May can be reached at email@example.com; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.