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Greener pastures

Special to the Times

LONDON -- In the matter of how we got to the point where Kevin Garnett wore a red “Red Sox Nation” bracelet while fielding questions amid a reporter scrum in East London, the New Englander furnished a few clues on Tuesday.

Asked the “why Boston?” question one day before his Celtics play his former Minnesota Timberwolves tonight in an exhibition at the same O2 Arena where the Ducks and Kings just played, Garnett didn’t mind answering.

“Ray Allen being traded on draft night,” he said.

That pertains to the deal of June 28, when Boston sent Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak and the No. 5 pick in the draft to Seattle in exchange for Allen and the No. 35 pick.

Asked the “why not the Lakers?” question immediately thereafter, the New Englander with the beach house in Malibu answered thoughtfully..

Garnett obliquely mentioned “dealing with personnel with a different front office” and “different coaches” and suggested the questions about the Lakers’ front office (which found no complement this summer for Kobe Bryant) mirror the questions about the Timberwolves’ front office he’d just departed (which had found no complement for Kevin Garnett).

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“I knew I didn’t want to deal with that,” he said. “I didn’t want to duplicate that. I didn’t want to mimic that.”

Then: “Obviously Ray Allen being moved made things a lot more interesting.”

After 12 seasons, 35,536 minutes, 19,041 points, 10,542 rebounds and a seeming qualification among the permanent features of the Minneapolis skyline, Garnett started last off-season as speculation’s favorite hoop hub.

He’d be traded to Phoenix or Dallas or Boston or probably the Lakers or remain in Minnesota for the final year of his contract. There might be four-team trades or two-team trades or no trades. This hubbub persisted even after draft night, when one swoop of Danny Ainge brought Allen and tilted things northeast.

On July 31, it became Boston rather than the Lakers -- Garnett for five Celtics players and two draft choices -- out of an untimely brew of Lakers uncertainty and Allen relocation.

For one thing, Garnett has a history in South Carolina with Allen dating all the way to the early 1990s, when Allen, born in 1975, played for Hillcrest High in Dalzell, near Columbia, and Garnett, born in 1976, played for Mauldin High near Greenville.

For a bigger thing, Allen’s arrival in Boston teamed him with Paul Pierce and meant the addition of Garnett would forge a huge three in a city very keen on big basketball threes. With Allen 32, Garnett 31 and Pierce just about to turn 30, the forecast calls for know-how as well as hope.

With NBA camps open, the Celtics resonate a giddiness that, after such protracted irrelevance, seems as strange as a Red Sox bracelet on Garnett.

Pundits speak of the Celtics’ playoff participation next spring lasting much longer than a coffee, especially given the peasantry of the Eastern Conference. Reporters covering the team joke about escaping from the witness-protection programs at their outlets.

To have the Celtics’ mood come up north of the Lakers’ would seem to defy the NBA’s normally sludgy changes of franchise fate.

“Yeah, I think there’s an excitement,” Allen said.

“I don’t have to handle all the pressure every night,” said Pierce, the 10-year veteran, his newfound freedom birthing such statements as, “I want to be a defensive presence.”

Pierce said, “It’s like we’ve been teammates forever. I feel like it’s all coming together . . . I haven’t been on a team this close in a while.”

Piling on, then, Garnett proclaimed it “by far the most fun I’ve had in camp.” He even referenced the Red Sox and Patriots and “a good time for New England sports right now.” He said, “The game is fun.”

He, too, feels unburdened with regards to basketball: “It’s a pleasure to know that I’m not just the primary. You have three primaries on this team. The ball has to move . . . It’s my job to initiate putting pressure on the defense.”

That would seem easier than his previous job of acting as Zeus.

Garnett is daydreaming about kicking passes out to Allen for open shots, going on about guard Rajon Rondo’s “high basketball IQ” and saying of 6-foot-10, 280-pound bulwark Kendrick Perkins, “I love him. I love the fact that he’s playing beside me.”

As the Celtics followed the Timberwolves onto the court on Monday, Garnett walked in and exchanged hugs with a few Timberwolves players and employees, but he spoke mostly about the absence of familiar faces on the team with which he grew up.

“Crazy,” he called it, the evidence coming with the Minnesota squad which will include the five players acquired for him: Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff. It also has Juwan Howard, who looked forward to playing alongside Garnett, then six weeks later learned he wouldn’t.

“It’s not a dead period,” Minnesota Coach Randy Wittman said of this phase of Timberwolves history. “It’s just a new-beginning period.”

Said Garnett of his team: “It’s a new beginning.”

Other places, it’s more same-old.


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