One could legitimately say that the Boston Celtics almost ended up losing Paul Pierce, a last-second hail-mary that was the trade for fellow Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett setting the stage for Banner 17 where they easily could have had to deal The Truth to another ball club had that deal not come together under former President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge.
Ainge, now serving in a similar role for the Utah Jazz, sat down with the hosts of the Players Tribune “Knuckleheads” podcast to talk about how that fateful trade came together, giving him the title core he needed to hang the first banner won in Boston since he was on the parquet as a player.
But long before the confetti came raining down while Garnett reminded us that anything is possible, Ainge had a promise to Pierce to fulfill.
“I felt like I owed it to Paul,” explained Ainge. “Because Paul had been a team guy. He’d been a real good soldier for us, and we had talked. (I said) ‘If I can’t get it done this year for you, then I’ll try to get you to a team that has a chance to win.’”
“So what happened was we made a deal for (Kevin Garnett), but I wasn’t going to pay the price to get KG if KG wasn’t going to commit to us long-term,” he added.
“So (Garnett) needed to sign an extension; we needed a five-year commitment out of KG, and he had one year left on his deal,” continued Ainge. “KG looked at our team and just went ‘Can’t do it, Danny.’”
“Me and Paul alone were just not enough to get it done, and so I understood. So then I had this deal for KG with Minnesota, and I couldn’t get (Garnett) to commit to us, so I went and got Ray (Allen) having no idea. Now, I gave away the No. 5 pick, which was part of the KG package, so I have no idea how I am going to get (Garnett), but I got Ray. Maybe now with Paul and Ray, KG will want to come.”
“And sure enough, as soon as we got Ray, (Garnett) is like ‘I’m on board now. I’m all in. I want to get there.’”
And while the rest is, as they say, history, the razor-thin margin Ainge made it happen is nothing if not a master class in how thin those margins are when it comes to whether to hold fast and push through after a long period of difficulty getting over the hump.
Or to throw in the towel and start over when things don’t break your way. Talent is critical in hanging banners, but Ainge knows as well as anyone that a fair amount of luck has to be in your corner as well.
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Story originally appeared on Celtics Wire