Around the NBA - Perkins Trade - 03/04/11
|The trade (of Kendrick Perkins) sullies Boston's identity from the defensive-minded team with this infusion of scoring.|
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When Tim Whatley makes the decision to convert to Judaism on "Seinfeld," Jerry is upset Whatley's conversion was done solely for the purpose of telling Jewish jokes.
Seinfeld voices his concerns with a Catholic Priests who asks Jerry if Whatley's conversion offends him as a Jewish person. Jerry says, "No, I'm offended as a comedian."
That similar feeling pervades after the trade deadline passed and the world learned Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson were traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic.
Am I offended as a Celtics fan? Not even close. I'm offended as a fan of professional basketball.
Call it selfish, backwards, even nonsensical, but are we as NBA fans cheated out of something with Perkins and Robinson (but mainly Perkins) going to Oklahoma City?
Boston was the perfect playoff team because no one is apathetic towards the Celtics. The veteran-laden group, complete with Kevin Garnett's demonic/moronic head-butting of the basket support, Glen Davis' drunken grizzly bear footwork around the hoop and the self-advertised extended relevance of Shaquille O'Neal makes Boston a comfortable hate.
Add in the maturation of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen's ability to slip through screens to find an open shot, and Paul Pierce's take-charge at the end of games and Boston is an elite, playoff-tested team.
The team isn't very likeable outside of Boston, but that appears to be of little concern for their core. This group was one quarter away from its second NBA Championship in four seasons. Boston doesn't need home court advantage. They seemed to relish the barnstorming approach to winning playoff games. Home games were nice, but not a necessity.
This was a team prided on its defense, specifically post defense. The Celtics blew up the notion that the NBA was a sport of individual stars and a bunch of backup singers. A team effort won the title in the 2007-2008 season. Does team chemistry really matter? I'm not sure, but Boston puts up a very convincing argument to support its validity.
The trade's prime commodity was Perkins, who up until he signed a contract extension with the Thunder this week, was set to test free-agency this off-season. His name was the talking point of the trade, the "What the (expletive deleted)" moment when he was traded last week. He forced guys like Garnett, Allen, and Pierce to voice their displeasure when he was dealt.
The trade feels as if we won't see Boston at full strength. Much like Garnett's knee injury of two seasons ago and Perkins' injury in game six of the NBA Finals, I feel like we're being cheated out of seeing the Celtics reach the highest level of basketball they'd be able to reach with Perkins, Allen, Rondo, Garnet and Pierce.
Are we being robbed of a throw-down, drag-out series versus the Heat, Bulls or Magic because Perkins is gone? Not necessarily, Boston is still in first place in the Eastern Conference, but Perkins' absence feels like something is missing.
I can't put my finger on it, but Perkins brought something to the Celtics besides the pedestrian 6.4 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game. Simply numbers of "just a guy." Never has "just a guy" meant so much to a franchise. Perkins anchored their defense in the post and handled Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Dwight Howard without any of the three going off for monster games. He did stagehand work on offense, handling the dirty work and understanding the limits of his ability with the basketball.
But something forced Danny Ainge to make the trade. He might have positioned the Celtics for a softer fall from supremacy with the additions of Green and Kristic, specifically Green, whose future as the player to replace Allen or Pierce is imminent. He would always be scoring option number three at best in Oklahoma City. The Celtics afford him more chances on offense, especially in a few years.
Maybe Ainge knew Perkins' market value was too much for the Celtics to take on. Maybe the knee injury that ruined the end of last season worried Ainge into a trade. Maybe, just maybe, Ainge was enticed by a former top-three pick he drafted in Green to trade away the post presence, the same lack of post presence that doomed the team in game seven.
The confluence of thoughts encircles any solid general manager who lives by the Branch Rickey mantra of trading a player a year too soon rather than a year too late. However, there exists a gaping hole in the paint for the Celtics, one that will be filled by Kristic and Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal. The O'Neal's have fashionably sported ice bags and walking boots more often than Celtics green and white this season.
The trade sullies Boston's identity from the defensive-minded team with this infusion of scoring. It might not be worse in the long run, but it's certainly different and different takes us a while to adjust. Celtics fans have to hope the team's adjustment doesn't take as long.