Steinmetz: Was Ainge handed Big Ticket to Finals?

When Kevin McHale played for the Boston Celtics, he was jokingly referred to by teammates as the “Black Hole.” Once McHale got the ball in the low post, he was set on doing one thing:

Scoring.

Danny Ainge, who played with McHale on a couple of championship teams, was never a big assist guy, but he knew how to throw an entry pass and knew enough to get the ball to McHale when he could.

Apparently, after all these years, McHale is returning the favor. It’s now McHale’s turn to give an assist to Ainge. That’s what he just did by sending Kevin Garnett, one of the league’s elite players, to the Celtics.

How else can you explain McHale, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ vice president of basketball operations, single-handedly resuscitating basketball in Boston by sending the Celtics, run by his former teammate, K.G. in a blockbuster deal? What McHale has just done is handed Ainge the keys to the NBA Finals.

In case you’ve lost track, that gives the Celtics three All-Stars: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Garnett. The Celtics may not have a lot of depth, but that threesome makes Boston as good as any team in the Eastern Conference.

But it’s more than that. The addition of Garnett makes the Celtics relevant again and finally gives the Eastern Conference the marquee team it has lacked in recent years. Assuming that the Big Three can stay relatively healthy, how can you not give the Celtics a legit shot to overtake Cleveland, Detroit and Miami?

When Ainge played for the Celtics back in the 1980s, he always had a knack for interjecting himself into games. It didn’t matter that he was the least talented starter on those great Celtics teams, he always wanted to take the big shot.

That’s what he just did as an executive.

As for McHale, it’s hard to see a happy ending for him. Al Jefferson has a chance to be pretty good. Theo Ratliff’s expiring contract helps. Gerald Green has potential. And Ryan Gomes is a nice role player.

The Timberwolves did get a couple of draft picks from Boston, but how good are those picks going to be? It’s not hard to envision the Celtics winning 50-some games in the East, which would leave the Timberwolves with a late first-round pick coming up. So what?

Maybe McHale is rebuilding something. But it’s doubtful he’s going to be around to see it. In the rugged Western Conference, Jefferson, Ricky Davis and Trenton Hassell just aren’t going to cut it.

The fact that Garnett is headed to Boston is no doubt a bummer for Warriors fans, who longed for the Big Ticket. But they can look on the bright side. At least their conference rival, the Timberwolves, got worse.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.


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