Here we are, still atop the Eastern Conference by percentage points, completely renovated and trying to swallow an emotional blow.
News analysts are split down the middle, as are Celtics fans. Living in Orlando I have been exposed to the constant heckles of an unworthy fan base saying we’ll never get past Dwight now (neither will their contract negotiations next year, but that’s another comedy). The Lakers are celebrating and so is Miami.
Kendrick Perkins is now being called several things I have never heard before. “The anchor to the Celtics defense.” Wasn’t that Kevin Garnett before this trade? “The heart and soul of the Celtics.” Isn’t that Paul Pierce whenever he has an injury scare or records just one point in a win over Miami?
Why now? It’s the “you don’t miss what you have until it’s gone” theory.
Of course Perkins was an elite defender against teams we will almost undoubtedly see in the playoffs and his intangibles are what made us so happy he was on our side. I was devastated watching the catatonic Celtics play against a Denver Nuggets team that made us look like the New York Knicks before the trade deadline. I sat on the couch and actually shed tears over the loss.
It’s time to move on and become a little more sports minded about this whole thing. It will leave a gaping hole in our hearts, but Miami, Los Angeles and Orlando need to know, we are not done. The Big Four are still healthy and in tact. That is the singular most important thing about this season. Jeff Green hasn’t even gotten a chance to show what he’s got. Neither has Krstic or Danny Ainge for that matter. To sit here and predict numbers, buyouts, O’Neal injuries or lineups right now is foolish. Comparing Nenad Krstic’s defense who just came from an offense-first team to Kendrick Perkins’ defense who just came from a defense-first team will make your stomach turn. The odds that all four players involved in the trade succeed or fail, right now, are completely unknown and up for speculation.
The inarguable thing is that the chemistry has been tampered with. However, the talent remains the same. When Perkins wasn’t around for most of the first half, how many of us were complaining? Zero. I’m not implying they can do it without him, but these other pieces can contribute just as well. Doc Rivers, one of the leagues best coaches assimilates players into his plans extremely fast. And what’s even better? Players who come to a team that is expected to win usually step up to the challenge.
Who was Nate Robinson before the “Shrek and Donkey” game in the playoffs? A selfish shooting guard who never thought out the extra pass or played ferocious defense. What has become of Eddie House, Leon Powe, James Posey or Al Jefferson since their departure from the Celtics’ system? They are shells of who they were for reasons that included injury (Powe) and mediocre game planning and misuse of natural talent by other coaches. Ask Spoelstra how confusing it is to manage a bunch of proven players and still find a way to lose to less talented teams.
This team has never been about one player, so why is it now? Doc Rivers has never double-teamed or overreacted to the opposition and he’s not about to start.
And this thing about our team getting smaller? We lost two bigs, replaced one and are “reportedly” getting another. I’m not a mathematician but I think we still have three bigs and the potential to have four.
I’m sorry to say that Nate Robinson was hurting our offense more than helping it. The same can said for Luke Harangody. He has incredible potential just not enough for a championship team. Marquis Daniels was a good idea but he was not consistent and could possibly be out for the rest of the season. And Perk, we know how much he did for this team. How hard he worked and what a nuisance on defense he is. Who’s to say for sure that he can stay healthy? He’s already out for the Thunder for two weeks. Will everyone breathe a little better if the playoffs come around and Perk is somewhere rehabbing his other knee or shoulder? So, in exchange for a threat who may or may not be available we received a 7-footer with offensive power who may not defend but can at least body up. Add Shaquille O’Neal, the most playoff experienced of the group with his fervor to match Kobe’s stupid ring count (Hey, Kobe, Bill Russell and his eleven fingers just waved hello), enter J.O. who matches up well with any of the aforementioned power forwards or centers, and introduce the unknown big man who Danny will add. I’m not extremely disappointed.
As a team executive you have to see the future as true to form as possible. I believe Danny thinks this team is good enough to get through Orlando, Chicago or Miami and, in my opinion, this was a subliminal message that he doesn’t think we’ll be seeing the Lakers again. Remember when Theo traded Nomar? Bet you thought it’d be another 86. We just got more athletic and offensively proficient, let Doc figure out the rest.
It’s all about 18 and it still is.