On the day the Celtics traded Kendrick Perkins, they were the NBA favorites, or at least damn close, and they could not lose to the Miami Heat. Three months later, they fell to the Heat when it counted most, four games to one, and Kevin Garnett later conceded the Heat were a better team.
Adding Jeff Green didn’t solve any of Boston’s bench problems, picking up Nenad Krstic only made Boston more susceptible to wide open layups, Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal remained injured and broken down for most of the season, and meanwhile, even with Perk playing poorly in Oklahoma City, the Thunder blossomed with their new big man. The Perkins trade, from whatever view you might take, did not pay any dividends last season.
Somehow, Shaq managed to make the trade look even worse yesterday. (NOLA)
“I truly believe that if I didn’t get injured,” Shaq said, “we (Celtics) would have beaten Miami, and we could have beaten Dallas. Usually when it’s really a bad injury, you get one (cortisone) shot, and then you feel better and play. But I got shot after shot, and I was scared to get an MRI. I knew my Achilles’ tendon was ripped the whole time. I did everything from acupuncture, cortisone and therapy. It felt good when I initially came back, but I ripped it some more.
“My mind was on winning the whole thing, and we had a chance to get the second spot (in the Eastern Conference), and we ended up getting the fourth spot. I even told (Boston General Manager) Danny Ainge not to do the Kendrick Perkins deal with Oklahoma City. I told them I might not be ready, and I’m definitely not coming back. Those guys did what they’ve got to do. I wasn’t surprised; I’ve seen it before. They say all that blah, blah, but you know it’s always going to be something different.”
Look, I’m the biggest Perkins Trade basher in the world. Jeff Green’s a broke man’s Lamar Odom and Perkins was an obviously important piece. The Celtics went from Ubuntu to Ubunt-who? overnight, adding a slew of players midseason and struggling to find their identity for the playoffs. Having all those new additions even forced Doc Rivers to cut his playbook in half for the postseason. That’s never ideal.
But Shaq telling Danny Ainge not to pull the trigger on the deal? That doesn’t change my opinion of the trade at all. Why not? Because Ainge should have known what a risk it was to roll the dice on Shaq’s health, even without Shaq telling him. It didn’t take inside information to know that Shaq was a walking (or sometimes not walking) hospital patient. The Big Diesel’s body was just as reliable as his free throw stroke, maybe even less so — Shaq played in 45.1% of Boston’s game last year, but shot 55.7% from the charity stripe.
Even if Shaq WAS on pace to return healthy well before the playoffs, his next injury was always around the corner. That’s what happens when you’re 39 years old, weigh 360 pounds, never stay in great shape and have played thousands of miles worth of NBA basketball. Ainge didn’t need Shaq to tell him any of that. That Shaq did, well, you can blame Danny for not listening, but Shaq’s body was telling Danny the same message long before Shaq verbalized it.
Ainge thought the Celtics needed to trade Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green. The trade was never about believing Shaq would return in perfect shape. Ainge wasn’t that dumb; not even the most gullible, optimistic fan thought that would happen. In the middle of February, with the Celtics the NBA favorites or very close to it, Danny Ainge simply thought the Celtics needed a serious change. Obviously, if last season is any indication, he miscalculated. But the move was never about Ainge trusting Shaq.