I Still Miss Perk . . . But

I think Kendrick Perkins was such a fan favorite partially because he was probably the least skillful and athletically gifted player on the team. For armchair quarterbacks sitting on the sofa and wielding our tools of the trade—-chips, dip, canned drinks, and a clicker, Perk was a guy with whom we could actually identify. I too can, or at least could, jump six or eight inches into the air. I too could make over half my shots within fourteen inches of the basket. I too won rebounding battles by refusing to allow the other guy to jump, set bone-rattling picks, and racked up fouls mostly by letting (perhaps insisting) opponents smash into my body. Yeah, I sometimes wondered if Perk took a work pail to the arena.

Yet Perkins had already missed most of the season before the deadline, and has missed most of the games since being traded. Consider this, Ainge moved five guys who were and/or have subsequently injured in exchange for five players who were healthy; and those additions gave us a total of ten healthy bodies for most of the time since the trade. By my math that means that for most of the past month the Celtics would have been playing with the Big Four, Avery, Luke, and whoever was recovered enough to limp out to the end of the bench. I attribute most of the recent woes to our All-Stars being exhausted and/or dinged up—-certainly the performance of the starters has been erratic and far below the standards of the first half of the season. How bad would it be/have-been if they had been forced to play 45+ minutes for the past three weeks.

Now admittedly, when Danny made the trades he could hardly have known that Davis would go down with tendonitis, Wafer would go down with a pulled calf muscle, Delonte would fall to a sprained ankle, Rondo would be slowed by ailments in almost every appendage, and Shaq’s Achilles pain would drag on for six weeks. Perhaps Perk could have come back sooner for the Celtics but that seems inadvisable since he was now limping on his “good” knee. Going in to the deadline I was hoping Daniels would return in a month (still way too long without relief for Pierce!), and with Shaq day-to-day, maybe the best move was moving/waiving Luke and picking up a small forward from the buy out heap.

Instead we got a major makeover, and a serious gamble that the parts could be reassembled into an effective machine in the final 27 games. Now it took me a couple of days to get over the shock of losing Perkins but the more I took stock, and saw the new acquisitions play, the more I could find wisdom in the move. I think Danny could already see the play of the starters declining due to over use, and not only were things not getting better, the situation was growing worse. The loss of Marquis seemed to be the final straw. The four deep center corps had fallen to a reinjured Perkins, the multiple-injury-but-playing-through rookie Erden, and the two O’Neal’s, Seldom-available Shaq and Just-about-never-available Jermaine. The already thin small forward had been reduced to Pierce the one-man band. The other swingman, Allen, was pulling longer and longer minutes with Delonte’s injuries and Nate’s ineffectual play (at either guard position). This was a team declining and in danger of going off the deep end. No, considering the trending situation, not to mention the subsequent string of injuries, the gamble looks like the safer course.

Looking to current events, Delonte is assuming the stabilizing influence role on the second unit that I expected/hoped for from the outset. After excellent play in the first half of the remaining games after the trade, Krstic has had two subpar games in a row that helps you understand the Frank comment that if he had played consistently well he would still be in New Jersey. The play of Jeff Green (and West and Arroyo) has me wondering why Pierce and Allen should exceed 32 minutes before the post-season (and maybe even play in both of back-to-back’s)—but then the team has been in such a funk. It is the tired and sore starters that have become the gang that couldn’t shoot straight so you wonder how the solution can possibly be to play them more like in New Orleans? I sure hope the winning formula can swing around to the starters playing well for 30 minutes rather than gutting it out for 44. The Celtics need, Need, to be able to win this way to prepare for the Spring season both to rest the regulars and to work the additions into the flow. If the only way to hold onto the 1st seed is to run the Big Four into the ground than I don’t think we can win it all anyway—-exhausted stars can’t beat the best-of-the-rest with just one extra game at home, they need their legs under them and their nicks at a minimum.