Steve Aschburner considers what Boston fans shudder to comprehend.
Had McHale zigged instead of zagged, had he bit on what many believed to be the Lakers' best offer -- center Andrew Bynum, forward Lamar Odom and a first-round pick -- Garnett would have been playing on Pacific time, Bryant might have been Finals MVP and the Lakers might have been hanging the 15th championship banner in franchise history (five in Minneapolis, the next nine in Los Angeles, then a 10th that deserved a real Minnesota asterisk). It might not have come down to McHale's decision at all; had Garnett dug in his heels and balked at Boston even after Ray Allen's arrival, he might have been commuting to practices and games from his beachfront home in Malibu.
He then makes some conclusions about what would have happened in Minnesota and Boston:
Boston: All of the pieces sent to Minnesota -- Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff's expiring contract and two first-round picks -- would have stayed right in Beantown. Ainge would have acquired Allen but not Garnett; the Big Three last season would have been a Big Two. Jefferson might have been ready to build on his 2006-07, when he averaged 16.0 points and 11.0 rebounds. But there's no way he's getting up the 1,441 shots he took for Minnesota -- 343 more than Pierce last season, 455 more than Allen and 451 more than Garnett was accorded. So Big Al might have taken a half step had he stayed in Boston, not the giant stride he made as the Wolves' go-to guy and low-post beast.
The Celtics would have had Ratliff's contract to peddle and, most likely, Green to cut. Telfair might not have gotten in Rajon Rondo's way at point guard, and Gomes is a player who can help in any role. But with all due respect to assistant coach Tom Thibodeau, there is no way -- no way -- Boston's defensive culture changes without Garnett around to demand it, enforce it and demonstrate it in that one-man-zone way of his. And without that defense, last year's Celtics are not, well, last year's Celtics. They're a playoff team, but Cleveland probably gets by them in the East.
An interesting "what if" discussion, but I'm just glad we don't have to worry about any of that.