Celtics Trade Still Has Plenty of Doubters

The Celtics are in San Antonio tonight to take on the Spurs. Jermaine O’Neal practiced yesterday and is expected to play for the Celtics.

With just a few weeks before the playoffs begin, there is plenty of worry about this team, and the integration of their new pieces, as well as their state of mind. Jackie MacMullan on ESPN Boston today, has Ainge speaking about the deal, and admitting the risks that went along with it. Bill Simmons explored this topic with WEEI play-by-play man Sean Grande on the B.S. Report Tuesday, and Simmons is clearly one of those who believes the trade was a disaster to team chemistry. In fact, they were making the case the Danny Ainge’s entire legacy as GM of the Celtics hinges on this trade. Simmons says that the Garnett deal will always be dismissed by some as Ainge’s buddy doing him a favor.

Some of these concerns are valid, however, I have to rebut one major point that Simmons, as well as Glenn Ordway and others have been making repeatedly since the deal was made. They’ve stated emphatically that the Celtics were the heavy favorites to win the title at the time that the trade was made and that since the trade, that is no longer the case. That’s a pretty easy statement to make, and it is true on the surface, but can it actually be used as an argument that the trade was a failure?

Consider this. Say the trade was never made. Perkins remained a member of the Celtics. Remember, he was already injured at the time, and would miss the next three weeks. Who was going to play center for the Celtics in that span? Glen Davis? They would’ve likely had to sign the skinny kid, Chris Johnson for the remainder of the season, and he and Davis would’ve been your center rotation for three weeks. Meanwhile, let’s say the team still signed Troy Murphy. Because of the shortage of big men he would’ve had to have played more minutes, and he’s been a disaster thus far. If Davis is in your starting lineup, you’ve got absolutely no scoring in the second unit, with the exception of a few outbursts from Delonte West, who was also injured during that time. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen would be playing huge minutes, with no rest. Perkins would’ve felt pressure to return even sooner, and who knows how effective he’d have been?

Meanwhile, the Lakers and Bulls would’ve still be on their other-worldly streaks that they’ve been on since the All Star break. The Celtics undoubtedly would’ve dipped some in their play. Would the Celtics still right now be the undisputed favorites to win the title? I don’t think so. People like Ordway would still be scared to death of the Bulls.

While some have said they like the deal long-term, as it gives the Celtics the possibility of some nice pieces for the future, they say that Ainge sabotaged hopes for a title this season. I think you can make the argument that Ainge made the deal as much for the short-term as he did for the long term. He knew Perkins was injured and that the Celtics would be without a true center for better than a month. He knew that there was no offense on the bench, no one to give Pierce and Allen some rest. Simply put, he had to make this deal.

Now, all the other arguments about team chemistry, confidence, ubuntu, the time to get new guys acclimated – you can make arguments (still flimsy in my opinion) for those points. But you cannot point to the Celtics record and standing in the league at the time of the trade, and since then to make any sort of case that the trade was a failure.

Now a few quick links for today:

Five questions for the Celtics down the stretch – Paul Flannery with a look at some things the Celtics need to figure out in the next few weeks.

Celtics getting big boost - Julian Benbow has more on Jermaine O’Neal’s return to action. Mark Murphy has more on O’Neal.

No more sitting pretty – Chris Forsberg says that it is time for the bench to step up.

Boston enters season with target on its back – Ron Chimelis has a preview of the 2011 Red Sox.

Meet the 2011 Boston Red Sox – Gordon Edes goes over the opening-day roster player-by-player.

Sox good enough to be second to none – John Tomase wonders if this is the best Red Sox team of all time.

Saltalamacchia ready for a fresh start with Red Sox – Sean McAdam has the new starting catcher ready to go.

Red Sox fit Carl Crawford well – Michael Silverman has the new outfielder comfortable with his new team. Tony Massarotti lists Crawford on his “Most likely to disappoint” list.

Marcus Stroud eager to extend himself – Ian Rapoport talks with the new Patriot, who is looking forward to revitalizing his career in New England.

Zdeno Chara brings it at both ends of ice – Rich Thompson has the Norris trophy candidate priding himself on being an all-around defenseman.

 

  • ben

    Have to shake my head about reaction to this trade on two opposite fronts. Gerry Callahan and others have made the point that you have to respect Ainge for having the stones to make this gamble. The fact is, you judge a GM on success and failure not whether they have the stones to make big moves. On the other side, wouldn't it be more prudent of media professionals to wait until after the playoffs to assess the trade's impact on this season?

  • Tony

    There's probably some validity to the argument that the C's team chemistry for 2011 has been sabotaged by the deal and, let's face it, they're currently looking like a team that will win one playoff series and then get bounced. If you judge the deal based on what happens in 2011, then Ainge made a major blunder. That said, there's no doubt it positions the team better for the future. What really irks me is guys like Simmons, and others, constantly saying that McHale did Ainge a "favor" by taking less for Garnett than he would have taken from other teams. Jefferson was a borderline All Star player who was getting better every year when the deal was made, Gomes was a solid backup, plus there were multiple first rounders included and a valuable expiring contract. Where was McHale going to get a better deal than that? How come there's not nearly as much national scrutiny of the insane Pau Gasol heist 3 years ago? I mean, all that deal did was transform Kobe Bryant from a petulant whiner whose ego broke up a championship team in 2004 into this now-legendary 5-time NBA champ…and Memphis had a MUCH better offer from Chicago on the table (Noah was involved) when they accepted LA's pathetic offer.

    • heavy-duty

      Can you say Jerry West? Talk about doing favors!!!

    • john

      I can remember Dom Nelson complaimg about favoritism on the KG trade because he offered Minny Andris Bierdins as the centerpiece for KG.

  • Brian

    I think you make some good points here, Bruce. However, I think the toughest to part to swallow about this deal is an offshoot of the "chemistry" angle, and it's that pre-trade, this was one of the toughest teams to play in the league. When a team saw Boston on the schedule, they knew they were in for a physical, nasty game, and I think we can all agree that's not the case anymore. While opposing players certainly don't make the best GM's, I don't think it's a coincidence that this deal has come to the public delight of players on the Lakers, Bulls, and Heat.

    I also don't like the tendency to emphasize Perk's limitations (inability to finish, always putting the ball on the floor, etc.). Similar to what we praise BB for, don't tell me what he doesn't do well, tell me what he does do well. George Karl, arguably one of the best coaches in the league (and maybe all-time) has said for years that Perkins is the best defensive center in the NBA, hands-down.

    My biggest issue with the deal boils down to the fact that trading Perk had such a destructive impact on the attitude of this team.

    • TjM

      Was the game against the Knicks not "a physical, nasty game"?

      • Brian

        Yes, it was, and they gave up 100+ points and needed to make a frantic run to win the game…you're also using one game that happened to include some nastiness from a 20-game sample. I don't think it's a coincidence that the other 4 have not played well since the deal, and believe that post-mortem analysis of the season will have at least one of those guys say they never recovered mentally from the Perk deal.

        I thought Jackie MacMullan had the most rational analysis of the deal a few weeks ago when she made a comparison back to 2007-8 when Perk averged ~16 minutes and KG played the 5 with Posey coming in and giving them valuable defense/big-shots at the 4. I actually felt OK about the deal at that point, but they have not gone that route…they have started Krstic at the 5 and kept KG at the 4, and that's a mistake IMO. The biggest issue is that Green is too tentative and not asserting himself with the second unit. He should be creating his own shots and the offense should be going through him…I'd like to see them start him at the 4 and put KG at the 5 like Jackie suggested was the original intention.

        • TjM

          "and they gave up 100+ points and needed to make a frantic run to win the game"

          They won 96-86

        • Brian

          didn't look it up, my bad…

  • GuntfatherEddie

    It's a risky trade either way because Perkins is a FA and Shaq is old and broken down. There are about 5 or 6 teams that can win the title and the Celtics are still in that group. They were definitely NOT a shoo-in or favorite to win the title before the trade and I have no idea now. Just another media-created strawman argument to argue against. Fatty Mazz has actually made some cogent points on this topic.

  • yerrrs

    I don't have as much of a problem with the Celtics trading Perkins as with who they got. The Wages of Wins website, run by a sports economist, looked at the trade when it happened and basically said Oklahoma City got a lot better and the Celtics might be better if Jeff Green gets minutes at small forward but with Oklahoma, neither he nor Kristic were productive players. In fact, looking at their statistical mumbo jumbo, both players cost Oklahoma 2 wins during the season before the trade.
    http://dberri.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/kevin-dura

    The Celtics did have to make a deal for frontcourt help when Marquis Daniels went down. They had no one behind Paul Pierce. The idea of trading Perkins made sense given how they couldn't offer him a fair contract by some quirk in the league rules and that he had the most value. They just did not get productive players in return.

    I do agree with Bruce about how they were not necessarily title frontrunners before the trade. They kept blowing leads in the 4th quarter because they could not play Rondo and Perk together and their clogged toilet offense would kill them in the playoffs. And the problem they have now is not defense, toughness, or chemistry. Their problem is that they can't score efficiently. Perkins would not help solve this problem but no one else they have brought in has been able to do that either.

  • tl;dr

    RE: The Trade:

    Meh. Baseball season starts tomorrow.

    • Jon

      …and as silly as complaining about the C's trade is a month after the fact might seem, F and M's speculation on what will happen if Francona gets fired BEFORE THE SEASON EVEN BEGINS is epic in it's silliness. It's like comparing Blazing Saddles to Epic Movie.

  • Classless

    Bruce,
    Watch The Associate and tell me this trade didn't blow up team chemistry. Watching the team virutually ignore Jeff Green in the 1st practice after the trade tells you something.

    While I agree with all the reasons you and everyone else has given about the trade (Perk was hurt anyways, needed a Pierce/Allen backup) nobody is mentioning how:

    a. Kristic is as bad if not worse than Perk under the hoop offensively and miles worse defensively. Yeah, he can sometimes hit a 17 foot jump shot. But so what? We don't need both big men launching jump shots out there.

    b. Jeff Green has been a disappointment. He's weak on the boards (there it is again), plays mediocre defense. His strength (scoring) seems to come in a vacuum. He's very passive on the floor, despite having an awesome offensive skill set. It's like he can score 12 points off the bench and it won't make a difference. I'm surprised they haven't tried him more closing games, which speaks to his ineffectiveness. Shouldn't he be pushing Glen Davis to the bench?

  • Jack

    At first I though it was a great trade, especially when you look at their record without Perk. But now I have my doubts. Maybe there just wasn't enough time for the group to gel. My only hope now is that the O'Neal twins can become contributors in the playoffs. That's going to require a lot of optimism.

  • jamiefolk

    Bill Simmons is just a hater. He is an old school Boston fan just like his dad. Constantly seeing the negative side of things. He hates Theo, Doc, Ainge and isn't that big a fan of BB. He just wants failure deep down so that justifies why he is such a whiney bitch. He thinks he can be an NBA GM and I would love to see him get a shot.

  • http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com Suldog

    Insofar as who would have played center had the deal not been made, the answer is Semih Erden (along with Big Baby.) Remember, they cast off a full third of their roster, not just Perk.

    Am I saying Krstic isn't a step above Semih? Sure he is. But you pretty much get the same game out of either one. Krstic is Semih with a few years experience and able to hit a jumper once or twice a game.

    I'm getting really tired of hearing about how this is a good trade because of the offensive side of Krstic's game as opposed to Perk. People are conveniently forgetting that Perk pretty much shot .600 for the better part of a season. Outside shots? No. Inside, where he should be? I saw a guy getting most of the buckets you expected from him.

    Daniles was the key loss, of course. If he was still available to play, no need to move anybody.

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

      I think Ainge would've still dumped Semih and Harangody (and Daniels) to try and open up roster spots for the buyouts.

      I think you're also right about Daniels being the trigger to all of this.

  • APimpNamedDaveR

    Um…. didn't Ainge build an NBA title team? And his legacy is somehow going to be completely determined by the Perkins trade?

    Sorry, Bill — I'm not with you on that one. That's like saying Terry Francona's complete legacy is going to be determined by how Jacoby Ellsbury hits out of the leadoff spot this year.

  • mandb97

    I listened to Danny Ainge on "The Big Show". A rare good moment for the show. I partially agreed with Ainge. The problems with the Celtics have nothing to do with the Perkins trade and I am one who did not like the trade. The problem is an overall lethargy with the team, especially the big four. I disagree with Ainge when he says Green and Kristic has excelled. Green has been exactly what he was in OKC, up and down. Kristic lately looks awful. This maybe a moot point because Kristic looks like he suffered a major knee injury tonight. With the exception of Michael Holley and Mike Flynn everyone else has put the blame on Rondo only, saying he misses Perkins and is pouting because of it. If this was the case, why did it take six games for this depression to set in? Felger and Maz have been the worst when talking about this while Ordway is a close second.

    One interesting thing is disconnect between Ainge and Rivers when it comes to injuries. Rivers said Shaq will not return until the playoffs while Ainge said he will return Sunday or Tuesday. If you remember the same thing happened with Garnett. Rivers was correct in his analysis then.

    As an aside, I have been watching the Celtics vs Spurs on TNT's coverage through Sky Sports International. It is great. There is no commercials and the mics stay hot. So far no one has thrown out any four letter words. Both announcers Kevin Harlan and Kevin McHale were physically ill looking at the Kristic injury. Harlan doing a fake hurl said, "Here come that bratwurst we had for dinner." McHale was grossed out by the older female dancers. Both announcers were upset at the lack of dessert with dinner. Seriously, It has been interesting to hear what is going to be talked about coming out of break.

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