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We saw Kendrick Perkins transform from a ham-handed, pudgy and angry teenager into the main player in the Celtics’ championship ensemble of toughness.
Kevin Garnett brought the fire. Paul Pierce brought the balls. Ray Allen brought the smooth.
Kendrick Perkins brought the tough.
A sudden and austere move by Danny Ainge, Perk’s disappearance was Keyser Soze-esque. “And like that, pfff. He’s gone.”
Like Perk did himself, many Celtics fans are crying over the move to send him and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green, Nenad Kristic and the Clipper’s 2012 first round draft pick. The team, a tight-knit, high-strung unit is equally distraught. They had formed a cocoon hardened by the resentment of other teams and officials and to see one of their pupae let go was jarring.
Doc Rivers has said many times that the Celtics have never lost a playoff series with the Perk-KG-PP-Ray-Rondo lineup. That record can be written in stone, laminated and framed. Of course, that lineup with never win another series, either, but…
Perk didn’t like this move one bit, and I wouldn’t want to piss him off. His icy death glare was so jarring to officials that the league adopted much stricter technical foul parameters. If you so much as flick a ladybug off a referee’s shoulder, you get T’d up now. That was all Perk, baby, and we couldn’t have been prouder.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around this move. Didn’t the Celtics lose the finals last year because Perk got hurt? Weren’t the aged Celtics built to win now? Wasn’t their deep big man rotation of Perk, KG, Shaq, Big Baby and Semih Erden one of the cornerstones of this team?
From a salary cap perspective, the trade makes some sense. I guess. Perkins wanted upward of $10 million a year, and Ainge was not going to pay that to a center who 1) was coming off major knee surgery 2) had already sustained multiple operations to his shoulder and 3) was offensively challenged.
Furthering the cap angle, with the dubious Semi Erden-Luke Harangody salary dump (which saved the Celtics a whopping $1.5 million next year), and the fact the after the 2011/2012 season KG’s $21.2 million comes off the books, and the Celtics now have only the following players under contract:
(Side note: KG’s upcoming contract year should make for some fun drama, no?)
Howard has a $19 million player option for the 2012/2013. Recent rantings about his teammate’s general lack of dedication, as well as his past calling out of Stan Van Gundy and the departed Vince Carter, seem to make opting-out in 2012 out a fait accompli.
Amidst swirling labor uncertainly, the only thing anybody is sure is that the salary cap will be lowered, as will the amount a player can get in a max deal. In that case, wouldn’t it behoove Howard, and his agent, to play out the year at $19 million?
Ainge is trying to get in front of the impending lowered salary cap to have room for Howard or any other available superstar. It’s a wise move. Look at the Lakers, for example. If the salary cap was lowered by $10 million to around $48 million, they would be screwed. Screwed with a championship core of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest, but screwed salary-wise nonetheless.
On the court, for this year, this move flummoxes me verily. Ainge has earned the benefit of the doubt, as he took a team that was giving Ricky Davis 32 mpg and turned it into a champion, but that’s what they said about Joe Dumars. Then he took Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony in the draft and now the Pistons are staging daily player revolts.
We’ve conveniently forgotten that when the Celtics won the championship, their crunch time lineup included James Posey in lieu of Perk, with KG sliding over to center. In Jeff Green, they are getting a somewhat similar player. Posey was more of a dogged defender and a slightly better three point shooter, but no doubt Doc and Danny look to mold the 24-year old into a Posey like multi-tasker.
What really scares me is the Green’s abysmal history with players surnamed Green. Orien Greene, Gerald Green, Rickey Green and the immortal Si Green (seriously, look it up) all lie somewhere between disappointing and irrelevant.
Oklahoma City must be thrilled with this trade. Not only does jettisoning Green open up minutes for James Harden, but a Perk-Serge Ibaka-Kevin Durant frontcourt is badass. The Thunder now have a legitimate shot of taking the Western Conference. Wait a minute.
Maybe Ainge was watching The Departed and figured with this move he could get the Thunder to take out, or severely tax, the Lakers or Spurs in the playoffs.
The Celtics are the Massachusetts State Police and the Western Conference is Costello’s crew.
Ainge is Capt. Queenan, KG is Sgt. Dignam and Perk is Billy Costigan. Kobe is Costello. Tim Duncan is Mr. French. Rounding out the cast, Pierce is Cpt. Ellerby and Ray Allen is the female psychologist (sorry Ray, I ran out of characters).
Or something like that.
Final thought: I love the Cleveland Cavaliers new Baron Davis-Semi Erden-Luke Harangody core. Could be the greatest tank team of all time!