The Celtics are in San Antonio tonight to take on the Spurs. Jermaine O’Neal practiced yesterday and is expected to play for the Celtics.
With just a few weeks before the playoffs begin, there is plenty of worry about this team, and the integration of their new pieces, as well as their state of mind. Jackie MacMullan on ESPN Boston today, has Ainge speaking about the deal, and admitting the risks that went along with it. Bill Simmons explored this topic with WEEI play-by-play man Sean Grande on the B.S. Report Tuesday, and Simmons is clearly one of those who believes the trade was a disaster to team chemistry. In fact, they were making the case the Danny Ainge’s entire legacy as GM of the Celtics hinges on this trade. Simmons says that the Garnett deal will always be dismissed by some as Ainge’s buddy doing him a favor.
Some of these concerns are valid, however, I have to rebut one major point that Simmons, as well as Glenn Ordway and others have been making repeatedly since the deal was made. They’ve stated emphatically that the Celtics were the heavy favorites to win the title at the time that the trade was made and that since the trade, that is no longer the case. That’s a pretty easy statement to make, and it is true on the surface, but can it actually be used as an argument that the trade was a failure?
Consider this. Say the trade was never made. Perkins remained a member of the Celtics. Remember, he was already injured at the time, and would miss the next three weeks. Who was going to play center for the Celtics in that span? Glen Davis? They would’ve likely had to sign the skinny kid, Chris Johnson for the remainder of the season, and he and Davis would’ve been your center rotation for three weeks. Meanwhile, let’s say the team still signed Troy Murphy. Because of the shortage of big men he would’ve had to have played more minutes, and he’s been a disaster thus far. If Davis is in your starting lineup, you’ve got absolutely no scoring in the second unit, with the exception of a few outbursts from Delonte West, who was also injured during that time. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen would be playing huge minutes, with no rest. Perkins would’ve felt pressure to return even sooner, and who knows how effective he’d have been?
Meanwhile, the Lakers and Bulls would’ve still be on their other-worldly streaks that they’ve been on since the All Star break. The Celtics undoubtedly would’ve dipped some in their play. Would the Celtics still right now be the undisputed favorites to win the title? I don’t think so. People like Ordway would still be scared to death of the Bulls.
While some have said they like the deal long-term, as it gives the Celtics the possibility of some nice pieces for the future, they say that Ainge sabotaged hopes for a title this season. I think you can make the argument that Ainge made the deal as much for the short-term as he did for the long term. He knew Perkins was injured and that the Celtics would be without a true center for better than a month. He knew that there was no offense on the bench, no one to give Pierce and Allen some rest. Simply put, he had to make this deal.
Now, all the other arguments about team chemistry, confidence, ubuntu, the time to get new guys acclimated – you can make arguments (still flimsy in my opinion) for those points. But you cannot point to the Celtics record and standing in the league at the time of the trade, and since then to make any sort of case that the trade was a failure.
Now a few quick links for today:
Five questions for the Celtics down the stretch – Paul Flannery with a look at some things the Celtics need to figure out in the next few weeks.
Celtics getting big boost – Julian Benbow has more on Jermaine O’Neal’s return to action. Mark Murphy has more on O’Neal.
No more sitting pretty – Chris Forsberg says that it is time for the bench to step up.
Boston enters season with target on its back – Ron Chimelis has a preview of the 2011 Red Sox.
Meet the 2011 Boston Red Sox – Gordon Edes goes over the opening-day roster player-by-player.
Sox good enough to be second to none – John Tomase wonders if this is the best Red Sox team of all time.
Saltalamacchia ready for a fresh start with Red Sox – Sean McAdam has the new starting catcher ready to go.
Red Sox fit Carl Crawford well – Michael Silverman has the new outfielder comfortable with his new team. Tony Massarotti lists Crawford on his “Most likely to disappoint” list.
Marcus Stroud eager to extend himself – Ian Rapoport talks with the new Patriot, who is looking forward to revitalizing his career in New England.
Zdeno Chara brings it at both ends of ice – Rich Thompson has the Norris trophy candidate priding himself on being an all-around defenseman.