Last time Kendrick Perkins met Kevin Garnett and the rest of the Celtics team on the court we were a serious contender. We had beaten the Lakers, the Heat and were having quite a successful season.
The problem then was who would be the starting center for us. We had Shaq, Jermaine, Semih and Perkins. We had been beaten by the Lakers in the previous Finals because of the lack of rebounding (and mainly because of the awful refereeing in Game 7) and the team had decided to fully address that flaw.
Last time Perk ran on the TD Garden it was to receive a huge standing ovation as we celebrated his comeback from a gruesome injury at the worst moment. We felt relief and confidence in the future because our starting center would be back. Shaq would back him up and we could use the corpse of Jermaine in certain matchups and Semih Erden was there learning for the future.
Fast forward to tomorrow. Kendrick is back in the Boston Garden. He still plays for a contender, but unfortunately it is not us.
38 regular season games later, the Celtics have a .500 record after Danny Ainge sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma in exchange for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and a Clippers future draft pick. As we all now, Nate is currently playing great for the Warriors adding some offensive spark to the Oakland squad. Perk has shed some more weight and is the starting center for the best team in the competition.
As for the Celtics, Green is out for the next 10 months, Krstic is in Russia and our Clippers pick has become pure ether, as our chances to be as great as before.
When Perkins wore green, when we were a perfect team.
When we were still ubuntu.
Undefeated in the playoffs with the starting lineup that made us champions in '08.
Sometimes it only takes a true man to admit that he has done wrong. And we can all agree once and for all that the moment Kendrick Perkins left Beantown, so did our hopes for another ring with the current core.
The Celtics ship started losing water through different and most inconvenient cracks. Cracks that never existed before.
Sure we were old, but we rolled. A perfect machine, a work of precision that didn't need to get fixed.
Danny feared LeBron, and he also feared rewarding his starting center with a well deserved extension. He just needed to add some wing, as Anthony Parker. A little make up, just some slight photoshop here and there and we would be ready to regain what they stole us some months ago.
But Ainge pulled that trigger. He wanted Harden and we got Green.
Chemistry was shattered in multiple pieces that fell in dramatic fashion like a domino move.
Our interior D started to suffer. Krstic was a good offensive player but soft as butter in the defensive end.
We lost Rondo in the process, even before Obama opened his mouth for a joke that had no fun at all.
The fun was gone, Big Baby become even more childish after Nate left. Who would backup Rondo? Nate was far from ideal but he surely didn't fear shooting the ball when it burned the most.
Shaq's body had already given up some weeks before the trade, right one year ago. He struggled to play in the Staples by the end of January and right after the Kings game he started racking DNP's like a crazy man.
Where were the other centers? Who knows? JO was somewhere thinking if he should have surgery or not and we were also wondering what happened with our insurance big man, the Turkish youngster Semih Erden.
All of the sudden we had no centers.
And we still believed we could squeeze some more winning juice out of our veterans to be able to reach the Finals.
Rondo came back in time to play really well in the playoffs, JO came back and gave us something in the Knicks series and even Shaq got to show up for a final act.
But it was too late. We had overplayed Pierce, Allen and Garnett.
Too many minutes, too much effort and too little help from the bench. While Perk was getting used to playing with a young and ambitious team in Oklahoma, the Celtics bench had been filled with Carlos Arroyo, Troy Murphy and Sasha Pavlovic among others.
Danny, is it really what you wanted? Did you really think nothing would change after you traded a vital part of your core in the middle of the season?
The secret of the Celtics in the previous seasons had been established from the base of the following three ingredients:
Team Work Ubuntu
Trading Perk was like touching the wrong piece in a Jenga game.
Danny, you shouldn't have touched there, down in the base, deep in the heart of the Celtics pride.
I wonder what Perkins will think tomorrow when he faces his former teammates in Boston. Will he recognize the Celtics beyond the familiar faces of fans and players? After the ball starts moving he will probably be another spectator of the strange magic Danny Ainge worked at the end of this fantastic journey of the Big Three era:
The Celtics of the Ubuntu times, of the Posey hugs, the Tony dunks and the Baby charges is gone. KG's knees seem heavier than ever, Paul can't get rid of the Clark Kent of his personal self and Ray just can't keep the pace of the faster shooting guards out there.
But in the end, we are still the Celtics, we still own the best arena in the league, the best fans in the world and the bravest and toughest souls in the planet.
In the end, I am sure, despite the success of his current team and his brilliant future ahead, Perk would give anything to be able to play for the Celtics again.
Yes, even with these aging stars and this chaotic team that we support now.
Because as the great Doc Rivers just said:
KENDRICK PERKINS WILL ALWAYS BE A CELTIC
Welcome back Beast. I wish you could stay for more than one game.