A nice start.
We've all had some time to cope with the emotional turmoil that came with saying goodbye to Kendrick Perkins and Danny has had time to finish rounding out the roster with free agent pickups. The final verdict on the deadline dealings won't come until June (well, hopefully not sooner) but now is as good a time as any to evaluate the early returns.
Did Danny Ainge "win" the deal with the Thunder? That may depend on who you think the "best player in the deal" is but there is no true consensus on this deal. Many hate it and always will. Many think it is brilliant. Still others (like myself) hate it emotionally but see the method to the madness and begrudgingly admit that it might just work (and hoping beyond hope that it will).
The point is, there is enough debate over who "won" the trade to declare it a "good trade for all parties" and move on. What is more important in the larger scheme of things is "are we a better team today than we were a few weeks ago?"
Short term the answer appears to be an overwhelming yes. At the very least, the team has more healthy bodies to throw out there. By my count, the Celtics traded away 5 players that are all hurt to one degree or another and have 5 new healthy players today (most of who were starters for some stretch of time over the last couple seasons). Again, assuming using some fuzzy math (and ignoring the butterfly effect), if Danny stood pat we might have dressed 6 healthy players last night.
Since the trade, the Celtics lost an emotional, understaffed game against a Ewing Theory Denver Nuggets team and have since rattled off 5 straight wins.
Jeff Green has been a revelation the last couple of games. There's just so much potential and skill there, it is hard not to salivate at the thought of him running the break with Rajon Rondo for years to come. Perhaps he wasn't ready to be a full time starter and 3rd option in OKC, but he's doing fine as a super-sub filling in wherever the Celtics need him. He has all the tools and apparent coachability to turn into another defensive stud on the court (as long as he isn't asked to play out of position too long).
I'm legitimately excited about the Jeff Green era (even if it means getting confused every time someone mentions "Jeff" in the comments). A word of caution though, from what I remember of the scouting reports, Green can be streaky and show flashes of amazing talent while disappearing other times. Even that I can live with, however, since the Big 4 tend to carry the load and you just have to hope for someone on the supporting staff to step up from time to time.
What else can you say about Nenad "Krle" Krstic? He's like found money. I never would have expected this much from him, but he's absolutely thrived in a system of ball movement that values that high pick and pop jumpshot. It sounds like he's just thrilled to have an expanded role.
“In Oklahoma City I didn’t have a role,’’ he said. “I was just a spot-up shooter. They didn’t want me posting up, nothing. It was a little bit frustrating for me. I’m more comfortable playing inside-out. When you are a big guy and you rely just on your shooting, you miss a couple of shots, you tend to lose confidence. You need to have a couple of easy baskets, just to gain your rhythm. Now all of a sudden you can make shots and everything.’’
Troy Murphy, meanwhile, is still shaking off the rust. He has yet to hit a shot from the floor. Hopefully that will come soon enough as he works his way back into game shape. At the very least, we can expect him to bang for boards from time to time.
The biggest concerning recent development is obviously the setback in Shaq's schedule. A lot was made about the risk that Danny was taking dealing away Perkins and leaning on the now 39 year old O'Neal. We'll see how he heals but that is a major concern.
Another concern is the team defense, which to be fair, has a lot more to do with the turnstile rotation due to injuries and player transactions than it does with the absence of Perkins (who was absent for most of the year anyway). In those 5 straight wins the team has given up scores of 92, 102, 103, and 103 before trudging through a game against the Bucks and only allowing 83 points. They also gave up big leads to the Suns and Warriors before closing the door on each team. Still, that has to be expected in this time of transition and one has to put some faith in The System that made Ray Allen and Paul Pierce into defenders.
The true test will come in the playoffs. The new guys have a little over a month to get used to the system and get ready for the dance. Still, the early returns are positive. So far, so good.
Meanwhile, down in South Beach...