Celtics, Timberwolves in multiplayer deal
Davis, Blount heading out; Olowokandi, Szczerbiak coming to Boston
The Celtics sent Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks, Justin Reed and two conditional second-round picks to the Timberwolves in exchange for Michael Olowokandi, Wally Szczerbiak, Dwayne Jones of the development league and a conditional first-round pick likely to be in 2008.
Almost two weeks ago, the sides were close to completing a deal that would have swapped just Blount for Olowokandi.
Minnesota was also interested in acquiring Indiana's Ron Artest. Once Artest was finally traded to Sacramento Wednesday, it cleared the way for the completion of the Celtics-Timberwolves trade, pending physicals.
''We felt like we were moving Mark to free up minutes and opportunities for Kendrick Perkins and Al Jefferson," said executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge. ''We wanted to make it easier for the development of Kendrick and Al. That's a priority of ours."
In the final year of his contract, 7-foot Olowokandi is averaging 6.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in 23.5 minutes. If the trade is broken down into matching parts with Olowokandi for Blount, that segment makes sense for the Celtics financially. Blount, who is making $5.5 million this season, has four years remaining on his deal after this season, while Olowokandi, who is making close to $5.9 million this season, will become a free agent this summer.
Boston has wanted to move Blount with his lengthy contract, inconsistent play, and what coach Doc Rivers undoubtedly found to be a questionable effort and attitude. After an extremely disappointing 2004-05 season, Blount and his agent Mark Bartelstein talked with Rivers and Ainge last summer. Blount arrived at training camp determined to reclaim the form he showed when playing for his six-year, $40-million contract, with a 15 percent trade kicker.
Blount began the season in the starting lineup for the first 11 games. But his inconsistent play, particularly on the glass, led Rivers to demote Blount to the bench. Blount did not play because of a coach's decision Nov. 25 against Charlotte. He has bounced between the bench and starting lineup since. Despite an increasingly limited role, Blount is averaging 12.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 27.8 minutes.
The second component of the deal involved exchanging Szczerbiak essentially for Davis. Fans will undoubtedly miss the high-flying act of Davis (19.7 points per game), who became a popular player in Boston after being acquired in controversial trade with Cleveland in December 2004. But the Celtics believe Szczerbiak will be a ''different" and better complement to Pierce.
''We feel Wally can complement Paul in a different way," said Ainge. ''Wally is a high-percentage shooter and he's a better post-up player. But more than anything, he's just different than Ricky. We have a couple of young athletic wings in Gerald Green and Tony Allen. Wally is a better shooter than everybody in this deal. More than anything, we just want to see how it all works. We believe it [Pierce and Szczerbiak] will be a great combination.
''We like Ricky. This is not about us getting rid of Ricky. This is about us getting an All-Star small forward that's different. Wally brings more to the table than just being a shooter. I've always liked his toughness, his intensity, and his consistency as a shooter."
The remaining part of the deal sends Banks and Reed to Minnesota essentially for Jones. Both Banks and Reed are in the final year of their contracts. It was clear Rivers preferred Orien Greene as a backup point guard to Banks. Ryan Gomes and Reed were competing for playing time and the Celtics have a longer contractual commitment to Gomes. Meanwhile, they will keep close watch on Jones, who was a teammate of Delonte West at Saint Joseph's.
''[Jones] playing really well [in the development league]," said Ainge. ''We'll give him an opportunity, not necessarily now, but we'll see how he fits into our plans. We'll give him an opportunity to be part of our future."