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One has to wonder if the dealing's done

NEW YORK -- Kevin Garnett stayed put last night. Starting Sunday, look for the offers to resurface for the Timberwolves All-Star. The question has to be asked: Will the Celtics be back in the chase?

One of the most important non-components of last night's deal securing Ray Allen was who was not involved. That would be Theo Ratliff, whose attractive, expiring contract is still on the Boston books. That was good enough to get Garnett a week ago, along with, ahem, Al Jefferson and assorted flotsam and jetsam. Would the Celtics do the same deal? Would the Timberwolves?

For those of you dreaming of an Allen-Garnett-Paul Pierce triumvirate, there are a few entanglements, starting with the reason the deal was killed in the first place: Garnett's desire not to play in Boston. He was unambiguous about not only not playing in Boston, but that his preferred destination be Phoenix. (Somehow, we think he wouldn't object to the Lakers.)

Would Garnett have the same sentiment now that he knows Ray Allen is in Boston along with Pierce and, perhaps just as critical, Wally Szczerbiak is no longer in Boston? We'll have to wait and see.

Then there's the potential dealing away of Jefferson. Kevin McHale won't do the deal without Jefferson, nor should he. Would the Celtics still want to do that or do they see Big Al as even more effective now with a long-range bomber like Allen on board? (Bear in mind that Szczerbiak was a pretty good shooter, too. Problem is, he couldn't stay on the floor. Then again, Allen missed 27 games last season.)

But the deal-killer might be solely financial, even though the Celtics have not exactly been big spenders these past few years. Some owners are willing to go over the luxury tax threshold if it means they have a shot of going some distance in the postseason, and let's face it, with a Garnett-Allen-Pierce combo, the Celtics would have to be in the discussion to go deep into the playoffs, especially in the low-rent Eastern Conference.

But any playoff drive with those three would bring a cost, and, depending on what the team does with the rest of its players, it could be a pretty big hit. Suppose Garnett decides to come and suppose he stays here for two seasons. In the 2008-09 season, the Celtics would be paying $17,388,430 to Allen, $23 million to Garnett, and $18,077,903 to Pierce. Gulp. That works out to almost $58.5 million for three players, which probably leaves another $15 million or so for the next nine guys, unless Isiah Thomas is hired to run the books. In other words, if you make the Garnett deal and the trio stays together for two years, Wyc Grousbeck is likely to be writing a check to David Stern.

Next year? No problemo because everything pretty much has to add up to make the deals work. Allen's $16 million salary is balanced by the outgoing money being spent on Szczerbiak and Delonte West. Pierce is already on the books. Garnett's incoming $22 million would have to be balanced by more than just Ratliff and Jefferson to pass muster with the bean counters at the NBA office. Szczerbiak was part of the original deal, as was Troy Hudson. Forget about them now. Think McHale would take Sebastian Telfair? Telfair's handgun? Brian Scalabrine?

Hey, it's not my money. The fans have dutifully shelved out significant dollars these last two years to see a team win a total of 57 games. They've seen ownership hold the line on the midlevel exception while having a payroll loaded with rookie-scale contracts. In other words, they are not going to feel any pain that a luxury tax two years down the road might inflict. Just bank the money from the home playoff games and put it into the luxury tax bin.

As of now, it's just Allen and Pierce as the two foci. It's not the miracle cure. Seattle had the fifth-worst record in the league last year and Allen is 31. Defense is still a big concern. There should be more to come. There has to be more to come.

The fact that Ratliff is still on the books has to mean that Danny Ainge has another shoe to drop. He may not do so right away, but among the certainties of life are death, taxes, and Ratliff being moved by the trading deadline in February 2008. It may come a whole lot sooner than that, and if it does, it could bring something quite nice.

But here's what I'm still trying to figure out. How could Danny do a deal with Seattle and not bring in Robert Swift?

Peter May can be reached at