Why Danny Ainge Made The Right Move

As 3:00 this afternoon approached, the biggest concern I had was that Danny Ainge might actually give up something worth a damn for Anthony Parker. Convinced that nothing was going to happen, I stepped away from my desk for a few moments only to return and look at my Twitter feed and see:

Genius me, I sensed immediately that something big had just gone down involving the Celtics. Something a little bigger than Anthony Parker. When things sorted out and the details came out – Kendrick Perkins had been traded along with Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic (and later, a first round pick) – all hell broke loose.

Celtics fans and bloggers immediately came down hard on the deal. Most questioning the sanity or intoxication level of Ainge (a Mormon, lest we forget). Many looked something like this:

That’s a polite one.

Then, as news came out that Semih Erden and Luke Harangody had been dumped to Cleveland for a second round pick, it began all over again.

Most fans were and still are out of their minds over these deals, saying that Ainge has given up on the season and thrown away the team’s hopes for a title. They’re pissed.

Let’s try and look at this a little more coolly, shall we? Let’s try to detach from the emotional attachment so many fans have for Perkins for a moment. Here’s why not only was this not a disastrous trade, but in fact it was a great move by Ainge.

Kendrick Perkins Isn’t Bill Russell.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of Perk and what he brings to the team. Ever since he showed up here as a doughy teenager way back in 2003, I’ve enjoyed watching him work and develop himself into a top-notch body-on-body low post defender. He has come so far you cannot  help but admire him. His teammates love him. His coaches love him. But…

There are number of circumstances which make moving him today the right move.

1) The Celtics weren’t going to be able to re-sign him at the end of the season. Perkins had reportedly recently turned down a contract extension offer from the Celtics. The deal was said to be close to or at the maximum that the Celtics could offer Perkins under the current rules. They were going to lose him at the end of the season, plain and simple. If they wanted any return on their investment, they needed to move him. Now. By sending him to Oklahoma City, they send him to a franchise in the Western conference that really wants and needs him, and will do all they can to re-sign him, hopefully keeping him away from the likes of the Miami Heat.

2) His game, while valuable, was extremely limited. There is a reason why Glen Davis has been closing out games with the starters this season, even after Perkins returned from his injury. Davis brings the physical presence on defense, despite his lack of height that Perkins does, while at the same time giving the Celtics someone who is not only not a liability on the offensive end, but someone who brings something to that end of the floor. Perkins is outstanding as that low post defender and is a good shot blocker, but that’s about it. He’s got hands of stone, his offensive game seems to have even regressed a bit, he can’t shoot foul shots, and he’s not a great rebounder. Are you going to hand out a huge contract to a guy you can’t even keep on the floor in the final minutes?

Both Perkins and Davis would be free agents. The Celtics couldn’t sign both. They probably hope to re-sign Davis, and this gives them a better chance to do that.

3) The Celtics did pretty well in the first half of this season without him. Perkins missed most of the first half of the season while recovering from the knee injury suffered in game six of the NBA Finals. The Celtics didn’t miss a beat. Granted they had Shaquille O’Neal for much of that time, and don’t have him at the moment, but they expect him to return, and also expect the “other” O’Neal to return, though if they get anything from him it will be considered a bonus.

So it became clear that if the team wanted to get something for Perkins, now was the time. This isn’t Bill Russell the Celtics just traded. They still have Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Glen Davis and Delonte West. In among all these moves they also hung onto first-round pick Avery Bradley, whom they like a lot.  Now let’s look at what they got in return for Perkins (and Nate Robinson.)

Forward Jeff Green. The 24-year old, 6-9 Georgetown product is a versatile, intelligent player, who has averaged 15 points a game during his career.  According to observers, he’s either a pretty good defender, or an awful one. He’s not the fastest player, but he’s very active. He gives you a guy who can play both forward positions, and depending on matchups, could play against someone like LeBron James in a Heat series, or Lamar Odom in a Lakers series. He is a restricted free agent after the season, but he is someone the Celtics can look to hold on to and become a cornerstone in the post-Big Three era. Ainge and Doc Rivers reportedly both loved his game coming out of school.

Center Nenad Krstic. As a center, Krstic is the anti-Perkins. He’s soft, not much of a defender or rebounder, but can shoot and score. At seven-feet, he’s at least a big, skilled body, he averaged 16 points a game back in 2007. He can foul – which might be needed against a Dwight Howard, or also stretch the floor a little bit with his shot.

A lottery protected first round pick from the Los Angeles Clippers. This could be another big building piece for the future, either with the actual pick (It is top-10 protected for the next few years) or as a trade piece.

Concerns people have.

There’s been a ton of angst out there among Celtics fans over losing Perkins. They worry that all of a sudden the Celtics can’t match up with Orlando, Miami or the Lakers. They say Perkins could lock down Dwight Howard single-handedly.

That hasn’t been the case all of the time, and especially of late. It’s become an absolute to some people that had Perkins not been injured in game six of the finals that the Celtics would’ve won the series. Without Perkins, Andrew Bynum still had only two points in both game six and seven, and wasn’t a huge factor. As for the Heat, they have no center. I’m not sure how not having Perkins has anything at all to do with how they play the Heat.

If the Celtics get Shaq back in time for the playoffs, and possibly Jermaine O’Neal, the Celtics will have more than enough big bodies to get through the postseason, where remember, there are no back-to-back games, and less travel.

The other moves.

In dumping Semih Erden and Luke Harangody, (and later, Marquis Daniels) the Celtics free up roster spots for potential buyout players. Semih had his moments this season, but you’ve got to think that any veteran that the Celtics can sign (Troy Murphy, for one) is going to be an improvement over those two. There have been a lot of possibilities floated out there as potential buyout candidates, and the Celtics are in a position to sign one as soon as they become available. (It’s worth noting that to make room for Erden and Harangody, the Cavs waived former Celtic Leon Powe, who I could love see back here.)

Ainge said this afternoon that the team would be aggressive in pursuing bought out players, looking for another wing player, a defender or front court help. There should be players available, and they’re bound to be better than Erden and Harangody. He also said they’re expecting Shaq back in a week.

Conclusion

So what Ainge has done today is give the Celtics a better chance of winning, both now and in the future. None of us like to think about it, but this team has a very short window. It’s this season, and perhaps next, and that’s probably it. By adding Green (the best player in the deal, who will contribute now) and the future first round pick from the Clippers, while also keeping Bradley, the Celtics have some assets and possibilities for the future.

  • jsr

    as long as they land Murphy, I'm good with it.

  • classless

    Bruce,
    You make great points about Perkins, all of them which can’t be argued but:

    1. Jeff Green guarding LeBron James or Lamar Odom? Ahhh no. Green can’t guard anyone right now. His versitility is almost a weakness in this case. He’s to slow to guard someone like James and too small to defend big PF’s like Bosh or Odom. I also wonder how fans and teammates will respond to his almost indifferent demeanor he exudes, something that has dogged him since college.

    2. You’re assuming the Celtics will sign their targeted buyout guys. Who’s to say Murphy, Parker, etc don’t go to Miami, NY, Chi? And Leon Powe? C’mon Bruce…you just spent an entire column arguing against a limited player who you admittedly liked personally, yet you want a player who hasn’t played in 2 years with the same weaknesses?

  • Jason_Coyote

    The initial reaction from most Celtics fans can be easily explained. They are confusing Danny Ainge for Dale Arnold.

  • sam

    after years of telling us the piles of garbage ainge had assembled smelled like roses jeff clark, celticsblog, and their slew of prepubescent commentors were upset at ainge for trading a career loser (al jefferson) for one of the greatest players of all time (kg).

    reading sosh and celticsblog only confirms my initial reaction upon hearing this news.

    it's a great trade.

    • Alex

      I wouldn't want to use Bruce's site to bash another blog, but yeah, I have to agree with you on this one.

  • Tom

    Bruce,

    I’ll give you credit, well thought out article. I’ll forget your support of Dale as one of those differences of opinion, but last thing I want to do is talk about Dale, just a bit upset yesterday you seem to control posts, what was said, and how much. Your site, but if posting links, you should be a bit more loose as long as no blatant swearing or idiocy. Anyway flame wars are for idiots. Good job on the write up, I agree, but it’s tough, we all love Perk, old school work ethic in a sports era where most are “lacking” to be polite. The worst thing I heard today was now BOTH NBA and the NFL are most likely having work stoppages. Ouch, what’s wrong with this world? It’s sports. Sorry these owners have all been lucky to get HUGE public $, so I got to go with the players on this one, but both sides are lame.

  • PIp

    I don't need you and your rational thinking this early in the morning. This is boston, sports aren't rational! We have schools and hospitals for rational thinking. Let me be emotional for another day or two, then I'll get over it.

    (You had me at Leon Powe…..btw)

  • tl;dr

    Meh

  • Tom

    Bruce,

    I’ll give you credit, well thought out article. I’ll forget your support of Dale as one of those differences of opinion, but last thing I want to do is talk about Dale, just a bit upset yesterday you seem to control posts, what was said, and how much. Your site, but if posting links, you should be a bit more loose as long as no blatant swearing or idiocy. Anyway flame wars are for idiots. Good job on the write up, I agree, but it’s tough, we all love Perk, old school work ethic in a sports era where most are “lacking” to be polite. The worst thing I heard today was now BOTH NBA and the NFL are most likely having work stoppages. Ouch, what’s wrong with this world? It’s sports. Sorry these owners have all been lucky to get HUGE public $, so I got to go with the players on this one, but both sides are lame.

    • http://www.bostonsportsmedia.com Bruce Allen

      Tom – I didn't delete any comments on the Dale post. Sometimes the message comes up that the comment has been deleted, but generally it's a robot spam filter that is catching the comments and flagging them for whatever reason. I go through those and approve them manually a few times a day.

      In general, you have to be really offensive, profane, or making personal attacks for your comment to be deleted.

      • Tom

        No worries Bruce, although I said "seem" for a reason. I actually had made a few more points not about the topic which I don't want to revisit anymore, and I kept having to shorten the message, than it seemed others got more words. 100% agree you should NOT allow swearing, abusive BS. My post eventually appeared word for word. I don't swear, at least on purpose. I should have just let it go.
        Your C's coverage is top notch, and that goes for the Perk article, whch most importantly tries to present both sides, even though your tone agrees with the deal. As long as Green is as advertised, I think it's a smart move, ESPECIALLY with the contract news, and the fact he's going to a Lakers rival.
        PS By the way, on this site in out of links, I always get error messages and frozen screens starting about a year ago, and that's several computers. Maybe it's my proxy server?, but I don't have any other issues anywhere. Could be explorer. I'm getting a Mac laptop within the year after years and years iof a PC due to business apps at first, then habit. But the time of MAC has come for me.

  • classless

    Bruce,
    You make great points about Perkins, all of them which can’t be argued but:

    1. Jeff Green guarding LeBron James or Lamar Odom? Ahhh no. Green can’t guard anyone right now. His versitility is almost a weakness in this case. He’s to slow to guard someone like James and too small to defend big PF’s like Bosh or Odom. I also wonder how fans and teammates will respond to his almost indifferent demeanor he exudes, something that has dogged him since college.

    2. You’re assuming the Celtics will sign their targeted buyout guys. Who’s to say Murphy, Parker, etc don’t go to Miami, NY, Chi? And Leon Powe? C’mon Bruce…you just spent an entire column arguing against a limited player who you admittedly liked personally, yet you want a player who hasn’t played in 2 years with the same weaknesses?

    • http://www.bostonsportsmedia.com Bruce Allen

      By no means am I suggesting that Green will shut down LeBron. I'm saying he gives the a Celtics young, tough, athletic guy who can at least physically match up with James. They didn't have that.

      Caught me on the Powe stuff. But I do think he can be a positive to this team. He can add more than Harangody at least.

  • Alex

    Great post, Bruce. I fully agree and would also like to add something that no one seems to be mentioning; Jeff Green is pretty good. He brings a consistent scoring punch to the Boston bench that has been lacking all season, and the thought of closing out games with him alongside the Big Four is salivating. There isn't much doubt in my mind that Boston got the best player in this deal.

  • Gabe

    Fair enough points but you can't tell me that the Celtics-Lakers last year is not a completely different series with Perkins in there in games 6 and 7. You just can't. The Celtics had NO front court depth (which is why they picked up Shaq and Jermaine) and got murdered on the boards. Pau Gasol had like 20 rebounds. Pao Gasol. That does not happen if KP is in the game.

    Relying on Shaq im afraid is a big mistake. The guy is 38, he's a big boy with a lot of wear and tear. IF we make it to the finals, it'll be a miracle if he gives us 20 minutes per game.

    IF the Celtics pick up Murphy, it will be a good trade. But if they don't, and are left with Shaq and Kristic (and Jermaine O'Neal – but let's be honest, is that really going to happen?)…yikes. I don't see them lasting in the playoffs.

    Lastly, KP was the starting 5's enforcer. The Celtics at their best in the last four years have played with a tough, defensive style. You cannot tell me that getting rid of their enforcer…the guy who would back up everyone else, with that mean snarl of his…is not going to have some impact on the psyche of the rest of the team. Maybe Rajon Rondo doesn't take it to the hole as many times, knowing that if he gets slammed down, KP has his back. Maybe Pierce and KG don't mix it up with the other team's best players. I heard reports that the team was pissed off about the KP trade and I suspect this is why.

    I think the Celtics will still be really good, still be in the EC finals against the Heat, but I think this goes beyond emotion (we're used to people coming and going in this city). I think people are legit concerned because the Celts traded their starting center (without definitive solid replacements) for a sixth man, who albeit is very good, but still not going to see the floor in crunch time unless there is an injury.

    Okay I'm done.

  • Jon

    Felger was beyond insufferable yesterday. He said Perkins is his favorite player? Really? Captain whiney Bucks fan complains that the Celtics are always whining about referees and his favorite player was a guy who piled up technical fouls for complaining? That makes no sense. Fact, not opinion.
    I'm also shocked that people forget some things in Game Seven: biased officiated, the Celtics not playing offense for a 10 minute stretch that had as much to do with the C's losing as Perk not playing. Convenient. I miss the guy, but yeah. He was not Bill Russel.

  • arp

    Sports is great because we all have opinions as to whether actions taken are "right or wrong." However, someone once said if you listen to the fans in the stands, you will end up sitting in the stands.

    Danny Ainge is required to look short term and long term (without sentiment) and do what he thinks is correct. He does make bold moves and we need to remember those moves have made the Celtics relevant again.

    Finally, this trade can't be judged until 1) we see who will fill the 3 open roster spots; and 2) they actually start playing with those guys.

  • Tony

    I like the trade for the "future" aspects of it. I still think this year's team has an above-average shot to win a title, but they're going to be weak up front if Ainge can't bring in another banger after the buyouts occur. Ainge did seem confident on TV last night, however, that both O'Neals will be ready to go come playoff time. That said, one thing I've been obsessing about over the last few weeks is what I believe is the need to AVOID CHICAGO in the 2nd round of the playoffs–and the only way to do that is to lock down the #1 seed in the East. I believe this trade yesterday made that task much tougher to accomplish. But I have to give Ainge credit for having the guts to make this deal. He traded a good guy, a valuable player, but a limited player, for a very good one; the bonus is acquiring that Clippers pick, even though it's lottery protected until what appears to be the next century, it's still a valuable "chip."

  • APimpNamedDaveR

    Bruce, I think you missed the cause-effect on Perkins' absence in Game 7 last year. Yes, Bynum only had 2 points in Game 7 — because Bryant and Gasol were picking up rebounds like it was a blue light special at K-mart, so his game wasn't really needed at all. The two of them had 33 rebounds (20 offensive). 33 rebounds!!!!! 20 offensive rebounds!!!!!! The Celts as a team had 40. It's REALLY REALLY REALLY difficult to picture Bryant./Gasol combining for 20 offensive rebounds in a game where Perkins played significant minutes. And that was the difference in the game — the Celtics shot significantly better than the Lakers from the floor, from the arc, and from the stripe. Take away the TWENTY extra possessions generated by Bryant/Gasol — and make it a more series-reasonable 11 or so — and the Celts win the championship fairly easily.

    It's a given that Perk's absence cost us game 7…. because that's what the facts bear out.

    Other than that, I generally agree with you.

    • http://www.bostonsportsmedia.com Bruce Allen

      True. All I can say to that is that Perk has never been a great rebounder. Having his big body in the paint would've helpedl for sure, but I can't say he 100% would've made THE difference in that game.

  • http://www.bostonsportsmedia.com Bruce Allen

    I apologize if you took it as condescending. If you read the things people are putting out there on various Celtics blogs, or did a search on Twitter with the hashtag #celtics you would see the people I was addressing with this post. They were hysterical. In that instance, I think it appropriate to ask them to look at things a little more coolly.

  • http://www.bostonsportsmedia.com Bruce Allen

    I believe I said very clearly regarding JON "if they get anything from him it will be considered a bonus."

    Enough of this outrage about "trading our starting center." This wasn't Bill Russell, Robert Parish or Dave Cowens. Perk for all his toughness and post defense is a very limited player. They couldn't even afford to keep him on the floor in the last three minutes of games.

    • Classless

      A "bonus" for 6.5 million per year. That's what hurts about Jermaine and drives me crazy about Ainge signing him.

  • latetodinner

    Bruce what were you thinking…you missed the single biggest point in the Celtics trade….they needed to distract the fan base so the Bruins could raise ticket prices. Again I have no idea what you were thinking laying out a rational argument for the trade. Did you not listen to Felger all day yesterday complain that the Celtics traded Kendrick "Russel" Perkins for Jeff "freakin" Green? Did you not hear the Big O say he was going to Have Danny Ainge on at 5:00 to explain the deal. Glenn who should know more about Celtics hoops and the NBA than any other host on the air had no opinion of the trade…none. He was surprised by it.

    It has taken a good 18 hours for anyone to give rational thoughts on the trade and for a lot of people to realize that Perkins looks good on a Celts team with 4 future hall of famers playing with him. He is not asked to score, pass or do anything but bang and rebound. To me he was the poster child for HS kid who never went to college and in reality never learned the nuances of the game. As such he was and always will be one dimensional. The Celtics need more minutes at the center spot…the dirty secret was they needed it when Perkins was here also. At least now they are significantly better on the wing.

  • mandb97

    Bruce, I believe you linked an article on Danny Ainge that summed up his phliosophy. I believe it was this Sports Illustrated article by Ian Thomsen http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/ian…. The gist of the article was that Ainge felt Red Auerbach was loyal to a fault to Bird, McHale and Parrish. Ainge talked about the possible deals that Red declined that would have brought in much younger players like Detlef Schrempf, Sam Perkins and Chuck Persons. My guess is Ainge knew that he would not sign Kendrick Perkins and wanted to make sure he would get something in return that would still keep the Celtics viable now and in the future, something Auerbach did not do.

    That being said I'm not sure this trade makes the Celtics better right now. I have seen Green play and if I may steal a line from Dick Vitale, he is a "Dow Jonser". Some nights he looks really good and other nights not so much. Where Perkins was invaluable was during the playoffs when the game grinds to half-court philosophy. Perkins could push out other physical centers like Howard and force jump shots instead of lay-ups. I don't think enough can be said about having an enforcer in your lineup. You could sense that some smaller players may think twice before driving to the basket. Also, depending on Shaq O'neal will be a big if. He is 38 and and not nearly the athlete he once was as his body starts to betray him.

    As far as game seven against L.A. goes, you are right Bruce, no one can be 100% sure that Perkins would have made a difference. We can only guess. You are right that Perkins was not great at anything. He was pretty good. That being said I think not having him in game seven made a huge difference. The Celtics had a 15 point lead late in the third. I find it hard to believe that they would have given that lead back with Perkins in the lineup. The Celtics rotation at Center went from three to two, Rasheed Wallace and Glenn Davis. In the fourth quarter Wallace did a great job of cleaning the Staples center floor with his tongue which was dragging heavily. It meant some bad fouls and Wallace fouling out fairly early in the fourth. Davis, who played very well through the series is only 6'8" and was beaten badly on the boards by Gasol and Bynum. When Davis would take the ball to the basket he would get swallowed up by the Lakers bigs. If Perkins played you would have to believe that Wallace would have played fewer minutes which meant fresher legs in the fourth and better scoring opportunities. Davis would have been able to be rotated at the four as well as the five. So yea, I think not having Perkins made a big difference.

    • Classless

      What this trade means concerning a potential Lakers/Celtics rematch: The Celtics will have to PRAY Shaq is healthy OR win with jump shots, as Green/Davis will continue to get swallowed up by the Lakers front line.

  • lowfatalbob

    bruce, your first point is 100% wrong, and i've heard repeatedly it for the past three days.

    currently the celtics can only offer Perk an extension at 120% of his current salary ~4 million dollars. had they let him go to free agency, once the new league year started, the c's can resign him to any dollar amount because they have his bird rights. The idea that the C's can't offer Perk any more than they did is wrong.

    Bottom line is, going forward, Danny doesn't want to pay brenden haywood money to a guy who is very limited, especially without the big 3. Futhermore, Jeff Green has much more upside and could be a big piece of the post big three era. I'm not crazy about this deal, but I'm willing to give danny the benefit of the doubt, but don't believe the notion that the c's can't afford to resign perk.

    they just didn't want to.

    • mandb97

      As an aside, I found this article on the "Bird Exception". It should actually be called the Cedric Maxwell exception. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/sports_blog/2010/

      Seriously though, your point about the salary cap would be a good one but guess what expires at the end of the year? If you said the CBA, then give yourself a star. Guess what is a major point of contention? That's right, the Larry Bird exception. Some owners want it eliminated while others only want one player available. Those owners who want one, want it treated like the NFL franchise tag. Whatever the case, there is going to be a major change to the Larry Bird exception Ainge can't guess what that change will be so he decided to make the trade now.

      • lowfatalbob

        so why didn't danny ainge trade glen davis for another restricted free agent? he's UFA at the end of this year, he's in the same boat as Perkins was..

        Bird rights aren't the major point of contention coming up in the upcoming CBA, %'s of BRI, length of contracts being shortened, abilty to get out of bad contracts, reduction of current contracts, and yes a franchise tag are all more important issues than bird rights.

        Owners want cost certainty, and after all of the mega-stars leaving their original teams, they want more ammunition to keep their franchise players, abolishing bird right would fly in the face of that arguement.

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