Let me start by saying that Danny Ainge has big ones. Ideas, that is. He crafted a perennial championship contender from a rebuilding squad, and did it largely through draft picks. His trading record is more spotty, but don't forget. It was his trades that got them title 17.
Now he does what some consider a gutty move (others call it something else) by breaking up the starting 5 for the past three years and trades one of the most popular Celtics on the team.
Breaking it Down
This is a team that is fueled by its emotion...big time. Garnett leads that charge and is arguably the most emotional player in the league. Kendrick Perkins played with his own brand of fire, at times out of control, but mostly gave just what the Celtics and Garnett needed to play that fearsome defense in tandem. They were one bad ass duo defensively.
Garnett is still the backbone of this team. How quickly and how well he recovers from the trades will be of great importance to the future success of the team. They have been saying how much of a family they have become. I have no way of knowing if they are that much more connected than any other successful team. But let's assume that is true.
In that case, the chemistry of this team going forward is critical. So that is a main issue to watch.
But this is also arguably the toughest minded team in the league. From Garnett to Paul Pierce to Ray Allen to Rajon Rondo, there isn't a tougher minded group in the league. You can add Glen Davis' ability to adjust to whatever happens and find a way to fit in. This is a resilient team that knows how to deal with difficult challenges, whatever they may be.
They were said to be livid over the trade. Will they get over it and move on? Or will this shake their confidence in a way that opponents never could? If so, Danny will take the heat for that.
I am expecting they will regroup around the changed team and will move forward integrating the new players into some new schemes offensively and defensively.
Kevin McHale said Danny told him they weren't confident (paraphrase) they could re-sign Perkins
in free agency.
So, let's put this in perspective. Kendrick is crying leaving. The Celtic players were very emotional and Paul Pierce called it a ‘cold' management decision. Never forget the business aspect of this sport. True enough.
But Kendrick did not want to sign an extension and wanted to test free agency. No doubt, he would have many takers. Miami was said to have him targeted. Though a lock out looms, Brendan Haywood money ($8-10 mil. yr) would be possible. If Perkins left for a deal that the Celtics couldn't feel justified in matching, that would have been different?
In the end, both sides have to look out for themselves. Instead of possibly losing Perkins for nothing, Danny got a young, improving, starter level, versatile 3-4 type player and a center who can knock down a jump shot for Perkins and Nate Robinson, who did his very best, but wasn't fitting in as well as some hoped.
Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett have said time and time again, that this team lives and dies by its defense. And it does. Maybe to a fault.
Danny mentioned ongoing offensive droughts as a reason for this trade. I noted something similar at the beginning of the season and probably didn't get a whole lot of agreement that it needed looking into. The defense will take care of the offense was the thought.
Unless they add another defending center (bought out?), they will change the emphasis slightly to more offensive options. With Rondo and Perkins on the floor at the same time, the opponents' defense can pack it in. They always have.
Jeff Green isn't having a good year from the three point line, but he is better than Marquis was and at least hits at a 33.8% career rate. Not quite Posey-like, (Posey is 35% career, but 38% from three as a Celtic) but....that is an improvement.
Nenad Krstic is a solid career mid range jump shooter and will help open up the defense, so Rondo, Shaq, KG and Pierce will find less of a crowd in the middle.
Defense and Rebounding and Who Might Be Added
Both categories take a hit. There is no getting around that. That is why the remaining open roster spots are important.
If Leon Powe returns, that helps in the middle with both rebounding and defense. He also adds toughness. I don't know how well he moves post injury. He couldn't get time on the league's worst team. Not a good sign. But I'm sure if the Cs sign him they will have checked that out.
Not being mentioned, is Samuel Dalembert. There was some talk of him possibly being bought out earlier in the season. I'm sure his agent and Sam would love that. He would be the perfect replacement for Perkins. Long tall shot blocking defender and rebounder.
Maybe it wasn't, but the Celtics deal with Sacramento for Marquis Daniels seemed a bit curious. Could it portend anything further? I have neither read nor heard anything, but Dalembert would be a great addition now.
Troy Murphy is the most mentioned name to possibly become a Celtic. Again, a poor defender, but adds rebounding and a floor spreading outside shot that helps distract the defense or makes them pay if they don't.
There are 2 spots open. If they don't keep D-leaguer Chris Johnson that will be 3 spots. Stay tuned.
Assessing the moves
There is no understating what Kendrick Perkins meant to this team. He was a rock. At this point, they lose something defensively. And that is big. He was also a gentleman in the locker room and it was great to talk with him and watch him grow as player. He was always respectful with the media and thoughtful in his responses. You can not help but like Kendrick Perkins.
But don't shed a tear for the Perk-o-later. He is going to another top contending team and may help put the Thunder over the top. He is exactly what they need. He gets to play with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Next season, he may get the chance to play with (gulp) Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh. I guess there is even a slight chance he could return to the Celtics. Nothing has been said that he has discussed re-signing with OKC. But maybe that is happening as well. Whatever happens, Perkins will be well paid and on a top NBA team. His future is bright and he deserves it. So it must be for ourselves that we Celtic fans cry.
I take no disrespect that there are opposing points of view to my own. Certainly time will tell whether this was the right set of moves.
Danny says this a move to make them a better basketball team this season, not next. It certainly makes them better offensively. Check that. It gives them more offensive ‘potential' with Green and Krstic. But somebody has to set screens and rebound.
Nate Robinson didn't become what I had hoped he would - an offensive explosion off the bench. That is what he is, at his best. The Robinson experiment really didn't upgrade the Celtics over Eddie House as one hoped. The bench tandem of Marquis Daniels, Delonte West and Nate Robinson never got its chance.
I give Doc credit. After initially keeping a tight chain on Robinson, he gave him a lot of offensive freedom - which is what a player like Robinson needs. Nate improved as a playmaker, but not enough. Nate improved defensively, but not enough. In the end, Nate Robinson jacked up shots way too early in the shot clock and his main fault was that not enough went in to make him the factor we all hoped he would become.
I wish Nate well with OKC. Come playoff time, may he be the thorn in the Lakers and Spurs side for the Thunder that he never quite was for the Celtics.
The New Celtic Middle
Right now it is all on Shaq...and Krstic. That is a risky proposition. Did Danny roll the dice? Or is he counting on another big being bought out or waived? I'm hoping it is the latter.
I have come to really like the new Shaq that the Celtics signed. Quite a humbling move to come here and try to fit in as he has. He has been great for the locker room and overall for the team. I can't help but root for him. But strictly basketball-wise, I question whether ‘Shaq the player' can contend with Tim Duncan and/or Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum over a 7 game series.
I am hoping he has been cruising a bit and will step it up come playoff time. As Danny has said, the starting 5 play really well with Shaq...when he is healthy. That isn't too often. Jermaine O'Neal is the x-factor right now. We know what Nenad Krstic can give you.
So it puts more pressure on Kevin Garnett defensively. Luckily he is the one player who will be up to it. Garnett is extremely active defensively. He is still a force. But the move gives the team more offense. Krstic is a solid if unspectacular offensive player. Far more important, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett get a solid replacement when Jeff Green comes in for them.
Finally the Celtics have the big 3 they have been seeking ever since Posey decided to take New Orleans' offer. Green can also play the 4 in a smaller line up and give the Celtics more range and length even then.
He is also a transition player in the sense of transitioning from the old guard to a newer unit to run with Rondo in a few years. Jeff Green is just 24 years old. Rondo just turned 25 on Feb 22.
In truth, Danny gave a hint of his thinking throughout the season. He always equivocated by saying that he has to try to win now and look to the future. He feels he has done both.
Adding one more piece, depending on who that is, might make this more palpable to Celtic Nation.
As is, if the Celtics get over powered by the Lakers in another NBA Finals, Danny will take the heat for it.
But it sounds like the Celtics were not expecting Perkins to be a Celtic next season and they needed offense now. Those two things made this deal make sense.
In the end, Shaq did get Perkins starting job as he goes for one more shot at a title before heading into the sunset. He won't get as much rest as he had hoped. But Paul Pierce will get more rest. The Celtics will have a player in Jeff Green who will help either unit he plays for score more. Green will get a crash course in Celtic defense along the way.
I assume they will try and re-sign Green in the future. He makes $4.45 mil now and they can extend a qualifying offer for next season of $5.9 mil.
In the beginning of the year I thought the Celtics needed to pay attention to offense this season. Now they have. And they are looking to the future. The question is if they traded a title shot to do both.
That will be decided in May and June. But I understand the logic and motivation. I also agree that the offense needed something new now.