Lessons from the Perkins trade
posted at 4/11/2011 2:06 PM EDT
Several valid points have been made to the effect that we shouldn't blame the Perk trade on the nose-dive the Celtics' season has taken since: Perk was out injured most of the year and they did great without him then; we had an even worse swoon last year (record-wise) with Perk; Shaq was expected to (and still may, in the playoffs) replace the size and toughness that Perk provided, plus be a better scoring option; and, Ainge had to consider the future - with Perk almost a sure goner after the season, he made the best long-term move to keep the team competitive a year or two down the road (although I'd rather win a championship, then become a lottery team, than not win one and then become a 40-50 win team for the next several years). All fair points, and I agree with those who say not to give up hope just yet - we'll find out for sure in the playoffs, one way or another. And, even if it ends as badly as it currently looks, we can't blame all of it on the Perk trade (injuries have been an even bigger factor than last year). Still, I think there are two vital lessons we can learn from this trade - at least, I hope Celtics' management has learned them:
First, when your team is already arguably the best team in the league with the season two-thirds over, you probably shouldn't trade one of your starting five. Period.
Second, never trade tough for soft. Jeff Green (heck, even Nenad Krstic) is a more talented player than Kendrick Perkins. The problem is, both Green* and Krstic are soft, finesse players - neither one plays physical, and when the going gets tough, they fold (at least, that's what I'm seeing so far). The playoffs are war - you can win that war with one or two soft players in a featured role, provided you have enough tough guys to watch their backs. The Celtics - at least of late - no longer seem to have enough "toughs" to bail out the "softs." Seeing Kurt Thomas and Carlos Boozer bully the C's without anyone standing up to them last week was too much to take - no way that happened when a certain #43 was in Boston. Those Celtics may have lost the game, but they would never have let that stuff slide.
I only hope that this year's Celtics can find the toughness that's gone missing in time to salvage their season. They also need to play with a lot more discipline and be less careless with the ball, but that's a whole other subject - and one that's easier to fix (a few good practices can tighten up the mistakes, but heart and toughness are things that you either have or don't have). Yesterday, Pierce and Garnett showed some heart - everybody else, not so much. Like I said, I hope the rest can find it in time.
*I hadn't seen much of Green before the trade, so I didn't realize that he was so passive (if you prefer a more charitable word than "soft"). I mostly remembered his 2007 draft profile - good size, great all-around skills, unselfish teammate. Now that I've seen him play regularly for the past month, he just seems tentative and disinterested - I guess that's the other side of being "unselfish," and it's not helping the team. The frustrating thing is, this guy has the skills to be indispensable to any team if he ever develops the right attitude and killer instinct.