NBA PM: The Celtics’ Missing Piece
The Celtics’ Missing Piece
Taking Kendrick Perkins off the Celtics was like removing the team’s heart. As productive as Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have been, Perkins was arguably Boston’s rock over the last three seasons. He’s the one who was pegged to guard the likes of Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Al Horford.
So the backlash to the Perkins-for-Jeff Green deal hasn’t exactly been a surprise. Everyone from Perkins, Garnett and even Pierce have indirectly vented their frustrations at president Danny Ainge through the media.
"It’s definitely a blow when you lose a guy like Perk who, who’s been in the playoff battles, been tested, gives us size and defense, especially when you’re going against guys like Dwight Howard, [or] Pau Gasol if we make the Finals and play the Lakers," Pierce told FoxSports.com. "Hopefully we can make it up in other ways."
The trade probably had more to do with Perkins’ contract situation than Green’s potential, but that doesn’t mean he can’t answer a big question for Boston.
The Celtics currently rank 22nd in the NBA in bench scoring. In fact the reserves even have a -2.7 Efficiency Recap Difference (21st in the NBA) according to Hoopstats.com.
Enter Green, who was drafted by Boston with the fifth overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft before being traded to Seattle for Allen. The 6-9 combo forward provides depth behind Pierce, Garnett and even Glen Davis while also giving the team a prospect to build around for the future. Most importantly, Green has averaged 14.2 PPG over three-plus seasons, thanks to a career-average of 3.3 FTA per game. The Maryland native has hit over 80% of his free throw attempts this season, which translated to an extra three points per game when he was in Oklahoma City.
But perhaps the biggest thing Green gives Boston is the ability to clear a path for Rondo and Pierce—two players who like to drive the lane.
"He allows them to make the court a little bigger for Rondo," a Western Conference scout told HOOPSWORLD. Perkins is going to set screens where Green can spread the floor and hit 3s. So it gives Pierce and Rondo more space and he can play two positions. It gives them more depth."
Green hasn’t wowed anyone with his field goal shooting, but the Celtics have had success hiding bad shooters in the past. Rondo is criticized for his shooting, but Doc Rivers has cut enough bad shots out of the point guard’s diet to push his field goal mark to 50.4% this year*. Green is also capable enough to defend Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James in the playoffs.
No one is suggesting that the Celtics won’t miss Perkins’ toughness (imagine the sense of relief Howard felt to see him leave the conference), but when Pierce talks about making up for the center’s absence in other ways, Green is a perfect candidate. And don’t forget, Perkins turned down an extension offer from Boston and could have wound up leaving on his own accord.
"I think it has to do with a couple of things," the scout said. "I think they went to him and said we’re gonna give you this amount of money and [Perkins] turned it down. If there’s an uncertainty they will sign, they said, ‘We can get two players [including center Nenad Kristic]. We still have another center. And we’re not going to re-sign Perkins if he’s not going to take this amount of money. So I think they were looking toward the future.’"
(*-reader Dan DuPont made a great point: Rondo has been over 50% from the field the last two years as well. I was simply trying to say that Rivers doesn’t ask Rondo to make shots out of his range.)
Orlando was the provocative, almost chic pick for Eastern Conference champions.
The Magic had a recent trip to the NBA Finals under their belt, and there was always the chance that Vince Carter would discover some chemistry with Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson. Coach Stan Van Gundy had the envy of the league at center, and a team full of capable veterans who could pick and choose their spots.
Of course, things didn’t really work out that way out of the gate.
The Magic stumbled to a 16-12 start and ended up jettisoning Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter while acquiring Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas. Following the initial post-trade euphoria, Orlando hit a late-January skid that culminated with a home loss to lowly Detroit.
Recently the Magic have lost a home game to the Kings, so it’s understandable that the team was excited to push their current winning streak to three games with Tuesday’s emotional victory over the Knicks.
Perhaps most impressive was the fact that Quentin Richardson—a 10-year veteran who has floated in and out of Van Gundy’s rotation all season—played a major role in beating new-look New York.
"It was definitely a good feeling to actually get out there when the game’s on the line and have a positive effect on the game," Richardson told HOOPSWORLD. "That’s the player I am. When I get out there I’m always going to be, in some way, emotional out there—try to bring energy to the team and try to give us life. That’s just what I do—even when I’m not in the game and standing on the sidelines, supporting and whatever, that’s just what I’m gonna do."
Richardson finished +15 at the end of the night, thanks to staunch defense on Carmelo Anthony (which included a couple of hard fouls) and a 4-of-7 night from the field. Q also played 17 minutes, which was the most court time he had seen since the beginning of February.
"I think my job is just to stay ready," Richardson said. "Coach is going with what he’s going with right now, and I’ve been around the NBA long enough to know that everything he’s doing has nothing to do with me personally. It has everything to do with him trying to win. So I don’t need to be trying to make his job any harder than it already is—complaining or being a negative energy in the locker room. Just be here, be supporting and I hope I get into the game."
The accolades that accompanied the earlier part of his career are subsiding, but Richardson is still feeling the love into his 30s. That’s why he hasn’t complained about sitting a bit more this year.
"I got the appreciation, the respect from my teammates," he said. "Everybody was getting me up, telling me ‘Great job.’ That’s good enough for me—my teammates recognizing that we’re winning, Coach recognizing it. That’s the biggest thing.
"That’s my main goal," Richardson continued. "Like I said, today I got in, but if we would have lost and I got in, I wouldn’t have been happy. I mean I’m happy because we won the game. I’m very happy that I got in and was able to play well. But the main thing is just winning."
The 116-110 win over the Knicks couldn’t have come at a better time. Orlando (39-22) travels to Miami on Thursday before hosting Chicago on Friday.
"I think it definitely makes it easier to go into Chicago and Miami—going in there coming off a win that gives us some confidence and probably has us feeling a little bit better," Richardson said. "But, at the end of the day, this win will be over and we’ll be looking at practicing and getting ready for Miami."
And even though the Magic are 1-2 against the LeBron James HEAT, Richardson sees his team as every bit the contender Miami is.
"We believe we are.," he concluded. "I believe what these people in this locker room and this organization believes. We don’t read papers or look at ESPN, who say, ‘Oh, we don’t think…’ At the end of the day, when everybody gets to the playoffs, everybody is 0-0. You got to go play basketball and it’s a game. You’ve got to go play 48 minutes per game and regardless of who’s seated one, they got to play. Dallas lost to Golden State (in 2007). I know nobody picked that. So it really doesn’t matter. We just got to believe in ourselves and continue to get better."
Orlando currently holds the fourth seed in the East.
It’s Good to be the King
Nets GM Billy King recently gave Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski a peak into his good mood.
"I still have to look to see that it says, ‘Deron Williams,’" King said to Wojnarowski while looking at New Jersey’s roster in his office. "I always thought that if I got [Carmelo Anthony], it would lead to my point guard. And I’ve always leaned to [Williams] a little more than the other one [New Orleans' Chris Paul] that people were talking about."
Wojnarowski learns that the Nets were approached by the Jazz, but not necessarily to trade the former All-Star Williams. Apparently King tossed out Williams’ name, almost for a laugh, but Utah GM Kevin O’Conner wasn’t turned off to the idea, so the talks progressed.
It’s an interesting article, particularly because of the window it provides into the workings of a trade.
Remember, point guard Devin Harris was a major part of the package that landed Williams. That means the Nets have been trading one point guard for another since they packaged Robert Pack for Sam Cassell back in 1997. From there the Nets traded Cassell for Stephon Marbury, who was used to acquire Jason Kidd, who was later flipped for Devin Harris.
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