When the Celtics traded Eddie House, Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens to the New York Knicks for Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry in February, it was pretty much seen as no big deal.
The Celtics were 33-18 and looked very much like a middle-of-the-pack, mediocre team. At that point, a trip to the Finals was hard to imagine. Interestingly, the Celtics had a game that night — Feb. 18 — at the Staples Center, and with a depleted bench, they beat a Kobe Bryant-less Lakers team by one point.
Four months later, the Celtics weren't so lucky.
That's not to say that being without House was the reason the Celtics lost to the Lakers, and it's not to disregard the contributions of Robinson in Game 6 of the conference finals or Game 4 of the Finals. Yet when Ray Allen was throwing up brick after brick after brick in the games following his virtuoso performance in Game 2, it was obvious that the Celtics had nobody to fill in as a sharpshooter.
Given his past experience with the team, it's easy to say that House could have stepped in and started nailing shots. Granted, he could not have equaled Allen's defense on Bryant, but his shooting, in all likelihood, would have helped balance out that equation.
When you look at House's numbers from the '08 Finals, he didn't shoot the lights out — he went 7-for-18 from beyond the arc — but the Celtics would not have needed him to be much better this time around. Allen's 0-for-13 shooting night in Game 3 could have been — for argument's sake — an 0-for-8, with House coming off the bench to fire up some shots (and ideally hit a few). Likewise, Allen would have likely seen some bench in Game 7, in which he shot 3-for-14. Remember the comeback game in L.A. in '08? House's 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting were a major part of the win, as his 18-foot jumper gave the Celtics their first lead of the game with 4:13 remaining. The image of House celebrating in the final seconds instantly became ingrained on Celtics fans' minds.
This year, Robinson was only used by Doc Rivers to give Rajon Rondo a breather from time to time. He exploded for 13 points in that Orlando game and 12 points in Game 4 of the Finals, but he averaged just 6.5 minutes and 3.1 points in his other 15 games played in the postseason.
Of course, the "what if" game can be played endlessly, and if House had been on the team this June, there could have been countless X-factors in play that could have changed everything. After all, House did hit just 25 percent of his 3's for the Knicks.
But of all the wouldas, couldas and shouldas left lingering after the Finals, Celtics fans can't help but wonder if things would have been different had House been there to save the day.