Friday, February 25, 2011

This Old House of Hall of Famers

Danny Ainge doesn't do "meh" deals. Personnel moves by the Celtics' boss almost always either succeed in spectacular fashion (Kevin Garnett! Rajon Rondo!) or fail the same way (Raef LaFrentz! The return of Antoine Walker!).

So it's understandable that Celtic fans are reacting with demented passion to the trade of Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City for, essentially, Jeff Green, with various other bodies providing more fodder for the transactions agate. That's what's known as operant conditioning. Ainge is known for bold big moves. Therefore, this move MUST be big for the Celtics' championship hopes, one way or the other.

The fact that opinion as to whether this deal is a masterstroke or a blunder on the order of the Bay of Pigs appears equally divided if unanimously bitter suggests to me that Ainge's latest maneuver is neither, and that the basketball community hereabouts needs a nice prozactini or three.

This trade is what engineers term a load adjustment. The Celtics' structure rests on four pillars, three of which are players of historic accomplishment getting up there in the mileage department. Flesh and blood materials fatigue is Boston's biggest obstacle to another title. It should be noted that doesn't just mean injuries. Just a little wearing down in the playoffs would be enough to cause fundamental damage.

Look at this trade from every angle, and it reflects the same answer. Green was acquired to lift some of the offensive load from Paul Pierce. However, the loss of Perkins means that a corresponding defensive load will be added to the duties of Kevin Garnett and when and if he comes back, Shaquille O'Neal.

That's neither a shrewd game-changer by Ainge nor is it blowing up the core of a title team. It's a bet. It's a reasonable bet, too. But reasonable bets are still gambling, and I have no clue as to whether Ainge will cash this one.

It is troubling that a team whose coach will talk until your ears bleed about how it's built on defense would trade away a player who excelled in interior defense. At the same time, lightening Pierce's burden is a worthy and perhaps vital goal. And I suppose if you're shifting a load within one's roster, putting it on two future Hall of Famers instead of just one is a logical choice.

But what we are left with is this: The Celtics have changed the identity and role of the sixth or seventh-most important player on their roster. Green is better at his role than Perkins is at his, but Perkins' role is a more important one to play. Those sentences sure read like a wash. I attribute more positive or negative assessments of this deal to cabin fever.

Come to think of it, that might've been part of the motive for the deal itself.


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