The trade that sent Perkins, a solid "glue" guy and defensive presence in the post, to Oklahoma City last season has become the equivalent of Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley for Bill Russell, only in reverse. Whereas Red Auerbach's 1956 draft-day carjacking of the Hawks helped jumpstart the Celtics' dynasty, in the public imagination the trade that sent away Perkins and Nate Robinson in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic allegedly cost the Celtics franchise its most recent run at greatness.
The cheer for Perkins when he was introduced as a member of the Thunder's starting lineup on Monday was nearly as loud as any current Celtics player received. Until Perkins gave Rajon Rondo a forearm shiver on a drive down the lane, the TD Garden fans treated Perkins as though he were still wearing green and white.
OK, it was a nice moment. Can we all stop this now? Really. With Perkins, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed, the Thunder might have the deepest and most complementary rotation of big men in the NBA. Alongside the virtually unstoppable scoring duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, that front line makes the Thunder a championship contender. Throw in sixth man James Harden and it's understandable why some argue that OKC is the championship favorite.
That's the extent of Perkins' role. He plays great defense and is much more mobile now that he is down to a reported 270 pounds. He intimidates some people. He plays hard and teammates love him.
Perkins would do nothing for the Celtics' league-low 73.5 field-goal attempts per game, however. He would not budge their average of 89.9 points per game. He certainly could help the minus-3.7 rebound differential, but it's hard to see Boston's defense allowing much less than its current 92.1 opponent's points per game, good for eighth-best in the league.
The folks who give their hard-earned money to wear jerseys and watch their beloved C's may like to believe that hard-nosed, defensive basketball will cure what ails the 4-8 Celtics, but that has nothing to do with it. Throughout the second half of last season, when Green became the equivalent of Kedrick Brown in many fans' eyes, the Celtics' offense — not their defense — was the No. 1 failure in their losses. The deep two-pointers that fell since this core was brought together in 2007 gradually stopped falling, and that problem has hit a crisis point this season.
Unless Perkins spent the lockout not only slimming down, but brushing up on his shot mechanics, it's not likely he would fix any of the Celtics' most pressing problems. Perkins would contribute more than Green has this season, obviously, but saying Green's aortic aneurysm proves that the Perkins deal was a bad trade is like saying Len Bias was a poor draft choice because he died. There was simply no way to predict such health issues, and having the benefit of hindsight doesn't make your argument correct.
As many memories as Perkins helped generate for Boston fans, the issues that plague the Celtics are not in his job description. It's time to let go.
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