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O'Neal, Celtics a mismatch

Past ire makes rumors unlikely

There are ongoing discussions concerning a four-team trade that could send Pacers forward/center Jermaine O'Neal to the Celtics, according to league sources. But those same sources said that it is extremely unlikely that O'Neal will ever play in a Boston uniform. Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge has never been a big fan of O'Neal's, and there remains the not-so-small matter of O'Neal being able to opt out of his contract after next season.

During the 2005 playoffs, Ainge and O'Neal exchanged words through the media during the first-round series between the Celtics and Pacers. After Ainge criticized O'Neal for "crying" when he complained about the Celtics' physical play, O'Neal told Ainge to "shut his mouth and do what he does, and that's run the team."

That would seem to make such a trade unlikely.

But the teams involved in the talks -- Boston, Indiana, Minnesota, and the Lakers -- and the players and picks involved are worth noting because they could reappear in reconstituted trades. The Celtics could revisit a deal with Phoenix, among other teams.

With less than three days until the draft, teams are hustling and compromising in an effort to come to terms on trades.

If the four teams involved agreed to the deal as discussed yesterday, the Celtics would send Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, and the No. 5 pick to the Timberwolves and receive just O'Neal in return. Kevin Garnett would go from Minnesota to the Lakers. The Timberwolves would receive big man Kwame Brown and the No. 19 pick from the Lakers. The Pacers would take Lakers forward Lamar Odom and young Lakers center Andrew Bynum to complete the transaction.

But if the ill will between O'Neal and Boston did not present enough of a stumbling block, Minnesota vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale was prepared to add another. According to league sources, McHale doesn't want to do the deal unless Al Jefferson is included in the package sent to the Timberwolves.

The Celtics have been working the phones to trade the No. 5 pick since receiving it in the draft lottery May 22. But Ainge has been extremely reluctant to part with Jefferson, according to team and league sources. The Celtics would like to add an All-Star veteran to the roster without jeopardizing the future as personified by Jefferson. Before O'Neal's name surfaced, Garnett was rumored to be that player. But late last week, Garnett's agent, Andy Miller, made it clear the Minnesota forward was not coming to Boston.

The Celtics still have time to do a deal before the draft, but the big questions are whether they can find players willing to come to Boston and whether they can stomach giving up young talent along with the No. 5 pick. Considering how long they have tried to move the pick (in a package with players), it would not be surprising to see them use that selection in Thursday's draft.

In yet another plot twist, the Charlotte Bobcats, who have the No. 8 selection, were told that Jeff Green would not be working out for them. That led to speculation that Green has a deal in place with a team picking ahead of Charlotte; why else would agent David Falk steer Green away from his longtime bud, Michael Jordan? But Green is due to work out today for Phoenix, which, at last check, did not have a pick ahead of Charlotte.

The Suns, who have picks Nos. 24 and 29, also are bringing in Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer to join Green, meaning there has to be a deal in place, given that no agent would allow a client to work out this late unless the team had a chance to make a selection. Thus, the Suns must have something cooking with one of a few teams -- the Celtics possibly being one of them -- to move up to the 5-7 slot.

Peter May of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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