Now that the shock of Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge trading away starting center Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City (along with Nate Robinson) last Thursday has worn off, it’s time to start evaluating the new guys in town.
Last night in Boston’s 107-102 win in Utah over the Jazz, forward Jeff Green made an impressive block on defense in transition and played 27 minutes, as did the other player Perk was traded for, center Nenad Krstic, who was impressive running the floor and who scored 11 points and got five rebounds. Green, who averaged over 15 points per game for OKC but was having an off-year rebounding, has to get used to coming off the bench and learn the Celtics plays (especially defensively). Krstic has plays to learn too but must love getting to start in Perk’s place here in Boston after being pretty much forgotten about in Oklahoma City.
I didn’t like this trade at all but will give myself a chance to warm up to it. I still don’t know why it happened. Was it because Perk, the mean face of the tough Celtics defense who had a career year last season and nearly made the Eastern Conference All-Star squad, got hurt too much? Was it his contract situation? In interviews on Boston radio late last week, Ainge didn’t deny that the possibility that he couldn’t be resigned here next year had a little bit to do with the trade, but wasn’t near the top reason. And thank goodness, otherwise Celtics fans like me would be even more red-faced about the move.
Perhaps Boston assistant coach Lawrence Frank saw something in Krstic that no one else saw, since the seven-foot tall center was once a loved player with the New Jersey Nets in the middle of the last decade when Frank was the head coach. He did score over 13 and 16 points per game in consecutive years (2005 and 2006) and is an overall better offensive player than Perk and who can also block some shots.
And perhaps Rivers loved having Green here since he played college ball at Georgetown with his son several years ago (and was originally drafted by the Celtics four years ago before being traded in a package for Ray Allen).
Whatever the reason for trading Perkins and Nate Robinson for Green, Krstic and a 2012 first round draft pick, there’s nothing one can do now but root for the new guys and hope they fit into the system. So far, it has surprisingly been Krstic that has shined more than Green, having recorded a team season-high six offensive rebounds in his Celtics debut against Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers over the weekend.
Green hasn’t done much but will eventually find his game, which will essentially be to replace the concussion-suffering Marquis Daniels. And by the way, now that Robinson is gone (with Perk), Delonte West becomes the backup point guard to Rajon Rondo, and that’s not a bad thing (assuming West stays healthy, which is a lot to ask these days).
Krstic will start for Perk for now, but Ainge can’t possibly count on him to eat up all of Perk’s minutes as a starter and hopefully has another ace up his sleeve, mainly luring power forward Troy Murphy to Boston instead of Miami now that the Golden State Warriors have bought out his contract.
UPDATE at 2:30 pm EST: Murphy decides to sign with Boston over Miami.
Murphy is a solid veteran big man who is a reliable shooter for a 6’10” big man (11.8 points per game) and can rebound (8.5 for his career), block out big bodies and bring that Notre Dame Fighting Irish spirit to the Celtics. Problem is that he showed up to camp for the New Jersey Nets out of shape and has not seen anywhere near the amount of minutes a player of his stature deserves. Hence the fact he was moved back to the Warriors, a former home of his (and is now on the move again, this time to Boston, which is a big blow to the Miami Heat).
So far, the Celtics are 2-0 with the new guys and are surviving, for now. But if the Celtics are to get out of the East this year and back to the NBA Finals, the squad needs to show it can be just as tough defensively without Perkins as it was with him. Getting Murphy helps with rebounding and perimeter shooting (if he is in fact in game shape nowadays), and getting Green and Krstic helps with offense, but only time will tell whether the new guys can gel with the big four of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Garnett and Rondo defensively. Let the games begin, as they say.
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