We know Kevin Garnett is intensely loyal, but Chris Paul and the Clippers certainly put that to the test at the deadline.
Garnett’s situation was unique of other stars that didn’t get dealt at the deadline, mainly because of his no-trade clause. If he wanted to remain a Celtic, that was his prerogative.
Despite what he said in the media about his love for the Celtics, and how he had no interest in waiving his no-trade clause unless Paul Pierce got dealt first, that didn’t stop Chris Paul from trying to lure him to the Clippers, apparently.
According to several accounts, though, talk between Ainge and the Clippers continued right up until the final hours yesterday. Garnett said during All-Star weekend that he would not waive his no-trade clause, and held true to his vow despite added pressure from Clippers guard Chris Paul.
According to a league source, Paul called Garnett and said that if he was open to joining the Clippers, then Paul would make it happen. Garnett, though, declined, expressing a desire to remain a Celtic.
Ainge’s wish list had been topped by the Clippers’ young duo of guard Eric Bledsoe and center DeAndre Jordan. The Clips, with an eye on trading part of the future for a deep playoff run now, focused their attention on Garnett.
But Garnett reportedly said no, to the relief of an entire Celtics locker room.
This is what true franchise players do. They play the game off the court, too. They recruit. They plot. They swing their weight around to get things done.
No one has questioned Paul’s power with the Clippers. Wisely so, the Clippers have complied with all his wishes since he joined the team last year. They re-signed Chauncey Billups — a guy Paul adores — as their first act of business this offseason. They’ve brought in former Hornets employees Paul pined for at various levels of the organization.
Paul has that level of persuasion in part because he’s not committed to the team yet. While no one around the team expects Paul to leave in free agency this season, the threat is present until he signs an extension. That left Paul with some unique power at the deadline — if Garnett would have been amenable to it, he could have gone to the front office and said, “Go get Kevin Garnett, and I’ll sign my extension.” The Clippers front office would have little choice but to acquiesce to Paul’s desires. They know where their bread is buttered.
It’s an interesting lesson in NBA politics and seniority, if nothing else. You see the three levels of power.
Blake Griffin, who is signed with the Clippers long-term, probably wouldn’t have much influence had it come to that. DeAndre Jordan is his best friend and going “all-in” and sacrificing young talent probably wouldn’t be in his best future interests, but he wouldn’t have the power to stop it.
Chris Paul had the power, even if it was only implied and never spoken, to get what he wanted at the deadline.
But of course, Kevin Garnett, who paid his dues in Minnesota all those years, held the ultimate power of being able to decide where he wanted to play.
How different would things be if Garnett didn’t have that power? We’ll never know.