BOSTON &

Kevin Garnett is on the brink of changing the Boston Celtics from one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference to one that should be among the best.




Add him to Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and the Celtics have three perennial all-stars who make them instant contenders in the mediocre conference.




That addition could come Tuesday.




The Celtics, who won the last of their NBA record 16 titles back in 1986, have agreed in principle to acquire the All-Star forward in a multiplayer trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, a Celtics official told The Associated Press on Monday.




He could cost them as many as seven players, including 22-year old forward Al Jefferson, one of their best players, 21-year-old swingman Gerald Green, guard Sebastian Telfair and center Theo Ratliff, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been completed. The official also said the Timberwolves would get at least one draft choice.




The teams still had to clarify items in some of the players' contracts, but the official said that would not prevent the Celtics from acquiring Garnett, although there could be a change in the players ticketed for the Timberwolves.




Garnett, 31, has spent all of his 12 NBA seasons with Minnesota. He would get an extension of his contract, which has one year plus an option year remaining, the official said.




Minnesota's Mark Madsen was surprised by the news.




"I never thought it would happen, ever," he said. "Even before I entered the NBA, when I thought of Kevin Garnett I always thought of Minnesota. But at the same time in this business, we all know that anything can happen."




Boston had tried to get Garnett, a 10-time all-star late last month, but his agent said he didn't want to go there.




Since then, the Celtics acquired seven-time All-Star guard Allen from Seattle in a draft day deal, moving them closer to respectability after going 24-58 last season and, perhaps, making them more attractive to Garnett. The Celtics have won just three playoff series during Pierce's nine years with them.




The Celtics obtained Allen and the 35th pick of the draft for guards Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak, and forward Jeff Green of Georgetown, whom they drafted with the fifth pick.




Pierce, 29, led the Celtics in scoring last season but played only 47 games because of injury.




Allen, who turns 32 next month, averaged a career-high 26.4 points last season, his 11th, but underwent surgery to remove bone spurs on both ankles that required him to wear protective boots. He is expected to be ready for training camp.




A long, lean 6-foot-11 forward who's actually at least 2 inches taller than his listed height, Garnett's athleticism has allowed him to play all over the court &

banging against bodies in the post, swatting away shots in the lane, running the fast break, shooting top-of-the-key jumpers and even playing point guard every once in a while.




A preps-to-the-pros pioneer, Garnett's immediate impact after being selected fifth overall in 1995 by the Timberwolves paved a path for dozens and dozens of other teenagers to skip college and declare for the draft &

most of whom enjoyed far less success.




Then in October 1997, Garnett's contract changed the game &

a six-year, $126 million extension that led to significant alterations to the league's collective bargaining agreement emerging from a 1999 lockout.




Garnett forever changed the franchise in Minnesota, too. The year before he was drafted, the Wolves set an NBA mark for futility with their fourth straight 60-loss season. In just his second season, he helped lead Minnesota to its first playoff appearance &

the first of eight straight.




The last of those was the best, when the "Big Ticket" was at his peak. He won the league's MVP award and led the Wolves within two wins of the NBA finals in 2004. Garnett averaged 24.2 points and a league-high 13.9 rebounds that season, joining Larry Bird as the only players to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for five consecutive years.




But those idyllic days quickly ended for the Wolves, who have fired two coaches and not made the playoffs since then. Part of their problem has been Garnett's huge salary, but vice president Kevin McHale has also missed on several moves. Though he never requested a trade or said he was unhappy in Minnesota, Garnett expressed frustration with some of McHale's decisions and challenged McHale to upgrade the roster.