Back in February, it seemed like the trade that brought Thaddeus Young to the Nets for Kevin Garnett was a sudden, fevered deadline deal. But over the last eight months, it's become clear that the deal took a while to pull together.
The central figure from the beginning was Flip Saunders, then part owner, team president and coach. Sanders, who died on Sunday, worked with all sides in the deal, with Young, KG and Billy King.
The deal had been in the works, off and on, for months. Saunders wanted the Nets to do it, had been "begging" the Nets to do it for a while, as one league source put it. But Garnett had a no-trade clause and didn't want to move his family in mid-season. Then, three days before the deadline, talks got serious.
Saunders not only wanted Garnett, who he had coached to eight straight playoffs. He also had someone who he believed the Nets wanted in Young ... someone who had told Saunders he wouldn't be returning to Minnesota. So Saunders played matchmaker. King had drafted Young when he was GM in Philly, had tried to get him for the Nets a few times before, saw him as a character guy.
"[Saunders] and Milt [Newton, T'Wolves GM], they basically gave me a chance to pick a few destinations I would like to be in," Young said of the process, "and they were willing to work with those teams, and those teams only, to help the situation we were in. That's something a lot of teams definitely wouldn't do. The 76ers definitely didn't do that."
It was up to KG however. He had that no-trade clause in his contract. After a talk with King and Saunders, he finally agreed. As Bobby Marks, King's assistant at the time, tweeted Sunday...
The only reason KG consented on the trade was that Flip sold him in the final hours before the deadline. Flip sold him on coming back.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) October 25, 2015
However, KG had to get the no-trade waiver signed and sent to the Nets and league offices by 3 p.m. The waiver materials arrived at the Nets office at 2:54 pm. It was that close. In the end though everyone was satisfied, the perfect deal.
Saunders' decision to go for Garnett was not just about marketing or symbolism. Saunders was not sentimental. It was about mentoring the young Timberwolves. KG is happy in his role and has a two-year deal that will take him to 21 years in the NBA, a league record. Young got his long-term deal with the Nets and King got his man, a legitimate piece for Brooklyn. He even picked up a trade exception that was later used to facilitate the Rondae Hollis-Jefferson deal.
Young remains grateful.
"We all believed in him as a coach, and I think every team he’s coached believed in him, and they still do to this day. You’ve seen the tweets, you’ve seen the Instagram posts, and everything else about what type of person he was, what type of coach he was. He was a great man."
- The Flip Saunders gesture Thaddeus Young will never forget - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Thaddeus Young calls Flip Saunders a 'great man' and 'pioneer to the game' - Rod Boone - Newsday