With reports coming out today that Kendrick Perkins has signed an extension with the Thunder comes a sort of closure on his career with the Celtics. Even a few days after the trade was consummated, the feelings and opinions of Celtics fans remain raw.
When I first heard about the Celtics trading Perkins and Nate Robinson for Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green, I was stunned. I hated the move and couldn't see why Danny Ainge would shake up a team that was in first place in the Eastern Conference. Perkins was a likable guy off the court, and brought a toughness to the Celtics that helped shape their identity over the past few seasons. By all accounts Perkins was a phenomenal teammate and was well-liked by coaches. There had been absolutely zero rumors of Perkins being traded, and the announcement blindsided Celtics fans. By the time the deals shipping out Luke Harangody, Semih Erden, and Marquis Daniels were announced the shock was wearing off, and most fans fit into one of two camps, for or against the trade. After checking out Twitter, reading the blogs, and listening to talk radio, it became clear that "for" or "against" the trade, turned into "Perk is terrible" or "Perk is the greatest defensive center since Bill Russell."
Now, I realize that sports talk radio long ago murdered "the gray area" and Twitter's real time reactions to news shouldn't be confused with rational thought, but I just think the polarization of this trade has gotten out of hand. The same people that loved the Celtics team, including Perk, were celebrating his departure. Others who rarely made mention of the team at all, let alone their blue collar center, were eulogizing Perk as one of the most important Celtics players and a crucial factor in their championship. It got even crazier the more I read and listened. Here are some actual points I heard an read on the trade as of today:
- Shaquille O'Neal was unhappy with his minutes and caused a problem in the locker room and Danny chose the guy he had signed for more than just the rest of the year.
- Danny never liked Kendrick Perkins game so he shipped him out of town the first chance he could get.
- Perk is only good at defense because of Kevin Garnett and he'll be exposed with the Thunder.
- Perk will never be the same after his knee injuries.
- Perk is the reason the Celtics beat the Lakers in 2008, and his absence is the reason that they lost to the Lakers in 2010. Oh yeah, and he dominates Dwight Howard.
- Kendrick Perkins slept with Delonte West's mom and Danny had to get rid of one of them. (OK I made this one up.)
- Perk was the "anchor" on the Celtics defense and their defense is going to suffer.
- Danny gave up trying to win a ring this season to get a little bit younger for the future.
The fact is, when you trade a good center and a not-so-good guard for a good wing player and a not-so-good center, the results are not going to be black and white. Fans, and Celtics fans especially it seems, tend to either immediately back the organization's decision or completely disagree with the move and write off the season as a failure. With the injury to Marquis Daniels, the Celtics had a gaping hole in their rotation at the reserve small forward position. Prior to the trade, Von Wafer was the only healthy back-up to Pierce. We all watched Wafer get torched by Kobe on consecutive possessions in a Celtics loss to the Lakers at home earlier this month and prayed that Daniels would return. Ainge was watching that day too, and it is clear he believed that Daniels wouldn't be returning this season and that it was critical to get a swing man to back up Pierce.
Now, is a back-up to Pierce more important than your starting center? Is the chemistry and camaraderie that the Celtics starting five shared not as important as we were led to believe when we were reading countless stories about a trip to Europe and a certain African word? How many points does Perk keep off the scoreboard for the opposing team? How many does he cost the Celtics with his inept offense? Does the absence of Perkins drain some of the toughness out of the team, and with it some of the fear that teams have of playing against Boston?
For now there are no clear answers to these questions, but I don't think a deal like this can be pigeon holed into a good or a bad deal until we see it play out. This probably reads like a cop out, and I understand anyone who would write it off as such, but making blanking judgments on a complicated deal seems shortsighted. For now, all Celtics fans can do is give their opinion on the trade and decide if they think the team is better now. Personally, I wouldn't have made the trade. Not because I don't believe in Green or Krstic and not because I think Perkins is a critical cog in the Celtics success. I wouldn't have made the deal simply because we know what we had with the team the Celtics had on the court. I think Krstic will make a far greater impact offensively than Perk, but not be nearly as good as a defender, especially one-on-one. Green can play three positions and was a starter on a playoff team in the Western Conference. Green is an obvious upgrade from Nate Robinson. Still, we won't know if this version of the Celtics have what it takes to win the title, and we knew the other version did. This doesn't mean that they can't or won't. What it means is that for the first time since the 2007-08 season, Celtics fans are wondering if their team has enough to win the title. Let's hope it works as well as it did that year.