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Did the Boston Celtics trade away their title hopes?

On February 24 2011, the Boston Celtics traded Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As shocking as this was, at that time the trade made sense. The one big hole the 2011 Celtics had was perimeter defense and this trade was expected to bring in the player the fill that hole. If the Celtics had to emerge from the Eastern conference they need to get past Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade. Who was going to guard them besides Paul Pierce in a seven game series? He needed help and Jeff Green seemed like a player who could do just that. The resulting hole created by Perkins’ departure didn’t seem like a really big one. Celtics were 33-10 this season without Perkins before the trade.  So he seemed like a replaceable piece on the team. So it didn’t take long for me to talk myself into liking it.

Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics


The next 500 words are my personal rant on why I hate the trade now and how it ruined a possible championship season.

It’s been 4 weeks since the trade and how have the Celtics done since?  8 wins, 8 losses post the Perkins trade, clearly struggling in every game, no interior toughness, and no identity. Rondo is clearly struggling to cope with the new players on the floor. The team chemistry is completely off.  They are horrible to watch. Trust me; I’ve watched 70 of the 73 games they’ve played this season – I can tell when they’re not good.

While this trade may make the Celtics better in the future, this will be a big reason the Celtics won’t win the NBA championship in 2011. And I hate this trade for that very reason.  Who cares about the future when you have a team filed with 35 year olds nearing retirement?  Ever since the Celtics acquired Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007 it’s been about NOW. This is a ‘window’ team – a team with a window of opportunity to win before its players walk away from the game. That window to win an NBA title is now. Not in the future.

With this trade the Celtics gave away their size, their toughness – which was their biggest advantage over other Eastern conference teams.  The big man rotation now looks like this – Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal, Troy Murphy and Glen Davis. Besides Glen Davis, everybody else there is a big question mark. Shaq has played only 35 games this year, Jermaine O’Neal only 17 games, Troy Murphy was a cast off from a non-contender.

For Celtic fans, this trade will always be known as the Kendrick Perkins trade. Jeff Green might be a future star; he might one day be the leader of this team. But Celtics fans will always remember this as the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City Thunder. Even if Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic play well in the years to come and carry the Celtics to multiple playoff appearances, this will always be the Perkins trade. No one cares about Nate Robinson leaving, no one cares about the draft pick the Celtics got in exchange. This is the Kendrick Perkins trade. If the Celtics fail to win a championship this year, it will be a glaring black mark on the legacy of Danny Ainge – the General Manager who messed up the chemistry of the title favorite and turned a championship contender into an also ran.

The Celtics were one of the most feared teams in the league before February 24th. Now they are just another good team that can be beaten on any night. Danny went to fix one problem, but ended up creating a bunch of other problems that can’t be fixed with any personnel moves.

This was a team that prided itself on its camaraderie. Last season’s gut wrenching game 7 loss had brought them even closer. Watching the purple confetti fall on their heads as they walked off the Lakers’ court helped develop a sense of urgency and focus on getting back to the finals. For the first 4 months of this season the Celtics looked mean, and angry and eager for revenge. That was the team’s identity, for better and worse. Now, it’s all gone.

The 2011 Celtics were never broken. The 2011 Celtics didn’t need to be fixed.

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