Although it appears that Minnesota Timberwolves general manager Kevin McHale quietly has started listening to offers for forward Kevin Garnett, the window for McHale to swing a deal with the Bulls may have slammed shut months ago.
Had Minnesota management been willing to pull the trigger on a Garnett deal before the NBA trade deadline back in February -- when it should have shopped the perennial All-Star -- Bulls GM John Paxson likely would've put together an attractive offer that included Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, P.J. Brown (for salary-cap purposes) and what proved to be the ninth pick in next week's draft.
That would've been a great trade for the Timberwolves and definitely would've jump-started (and probably shortened) their rebuilding efforts.
Instead, Minnesota stubbornly held on to Garnett and foolishly gambled that firing coach Dwane Casey would spark a late playoff push. That proved to be yet another bad decision during McHale's decade of running the franchise.
Garnett's value on the trade market has dropped considerably because he has the right to opt out of his contract after next season and become a free agent. No smart GM is going to pay a premium for a player he may lose for nothing in a year.
Of course, the Bulls would've been willing to gamble in February because a deal then would've secured Garnett's services for a minimum of two playoff runs. According to sources, the Bulls still are very interested, but their current offer would be substantially less because they would be assured of having Garnett for only one playoff run.
What would the Bulls be willing to offer? That remains to be seen, but it's safe to say Deng is off the table. Although they probably would be willing to give up Ben Gordon or Thomas, including both in a trade is unlikely.
The other complication making the deal more difficult now is the salary cap. To even out the salaries of the proposed trade in February, Brown's $8.5 million salary had to be included because Garnett made $21 million last season.
Brown would have to be included in any proposal now for the same reason. The problem is he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, so the Bulls would have to get him to agree to a sign-and-trade deal before anything can happen. Although Brown, who'll be 38 in the fall, has yet to say whether he intends to retire, it's doubtful he would agree to play for a rebuilding Minnesota team next season.
A savvy GM would've recognized all of those potential pitfalls in February, but it's no surprise they were lost on McHale. How he has managed to keep his job all these years is one of life's most baffling mysteries. Having a cornerstone like Garnett to build around is the dream for any GM, but McHale somehow has found a way to make the team worse each year.
Now McHale faces the lose-lose proposition of dealing Garnett at a bargain price or running the risk of losing him for nothing next season.
McHale reportedly has been talking with Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge and may be hoping that his former teammate bails him out. Reports in Boston have the Celtics offering a package of Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and the No. 5 pick in the draft.
It's not as good as the Bulls' offer a few months ago, but it might be as good as it gets now.