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Rumination on the Perkins Deal

Posted By Michael Johnson On Feb 27 2011 @ 7:49 pm In Boston Celtics | 1 Comment

So where do we go from here?

Let us put aside our collective confusion over this deal for a moment and try to put things into perspective. We are continually told that sports are a “business”. Simply put, this deal was a business decision. In my opinion we returned with the best player in the deal by getting Jeff Green. Green is that scorer off of the bench that we have been looking for since the loss of Posey two years ago (at least we hope so). He has proven an integral part of the Thunder’s acceleration from a 20 win team to a 55 win team over just several seasons.

Krstic is a serviceable 7 footer from Serbia. He certainly doesn’t play the brand of basketball we’ve come to expect from Perk, but both of these guys are solid offensive options for an otherwise devoid 2nd unit. Nate hasn’t shown up at all this season. Delonte has been hurt. Shaq has been hurt. Jermaine O’Neal has also been injured. Quis was basically out for the season. Green and Krstic may not contain the defensive tenacity shared by the rest of the team (yet), but they will certainly help put points up on the board. Both are relatively young, and hopefully will remain in good health, something that has eluded this Celtics team all season long.

But with that being said we cannot ignore the glaring deficit we now face in the bigs department. Where are the bodies? Where is the brutality we once possessed? Are we now fully dependent on Shaquille O’Neal to carry us through the playoffs? Of course there is speculation that the C’s will now acquire Troy Murphy or Rasheed Wallace to fill the void. Something certainly needs to happen, because the present lineup doesn’t seem to cut it. It seems like one single day took away one of our greatest strengths—our size. Since signing Shaq this past summer, I have had recurring visions of the Big Diesel and Perk just out-muscling Gasol and Bynum in the Finals. I saw them pulling down the big boards we were unable to get in Game 7, and ultimately hoisting the O’Brien trophy once again. Unfortunately it seems like if we’re going to do that now, it will have to be with a different approach.

Aside from the immediate effects of this deal, there is a potentially enormous residual effect of losing Kendrick Perkins. To say that Perk was part of the heart and soul of this team would be a serious understatement. He was the Celtic through and through. Perk was a tough and gritty defensive player that was willing to sacrifice for the good of the team. Someone who never, and I mean NEVER played friendly. The look on his face said it all. The Celtics had a definitive and indelible team identity. Perk embodied that identity. No matter how many bench players the C’s have rotated in and out of the lineup, from Posey, House and Powe to Wallace and Robinson, and now to Shaq, we always knew the starting 5 would remain the same.

For me, losing Perkins is on par with the trade of Antoine Walker. For years Pierce and Walker brought Boston basketball back from the depths of hell to a prominent and proud franchise once again. I will never forget the electricity of the 2002 NBA Playoffs. Celtics basketball was finally back. Sadly that team didn’t have what it took to make it all the way. After two seasons this was evident. But losing Walker still pained every C’s fan, no matter how casual, because they could see that he poured his heart and soul into the organization. Fortunately, Perk was a member of a championship caliber squad. They had made it to the promised land, and were poised to once again this year. Perk had also poured his heart and soul into this organization, and was a part of its very fabric. Ultimately that is what makes this deal so baffling. It feels like a championship team was just gutted clean, with no regard for the past or present, but instead only the future.

I truly thought the Celtics were different. I believed that they valued loyalty and commitment, a cornerstone that this franchise was basically founded upon. This goes beyond walking into the Garden and being inspired by the banners. It transcends the patriarch of the franchise, Red Auerbach, who will always be in spirit with the team. The Celtics have something truly unique. Each major player that has passed through the organization continues to support them in whatever capacity they can. Russell, Coozy, Heinsohn, Jo Jo White, Havilicek, Maxwell—the list goes on and on. Each spent a lengthy career with the C’s, and continues to support them in their later years.

I never assumed Perk’s name would be amongst the most valuable players of the franchise, but I certainly believed that he had earned his keep amongst this particular team. Night in and night out he paid his dues and sacrificed for the betterment of the team. He didn’t have style or flair. He didn’t contain the panache of someone like Kevin Garnett. But he was truly loved by all. I thought things were different here in Boston. Sure, sports are a business, but it’s an extremely delicate one. Relationships are forged that cannot be undone, both amongst players and fans. With all of the turmoil and turnaround that happen in sports today it is always nice to see the rare cases of solidarity between player and organization. Despite an extremely rough patch, Pierce has remained with the organization since the beginning of his career. I’m sure many were hoping that things would be the same with Perkins. I guess it’s true, you never see it coming, you just get to see it go.

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