BOSTON With the trading deadline less than a week away, the Boston Celtics are fielding and making their share of calls throughout the NBA.
Before pulling the trigger on any deal, there are a number of factors that have to be weighed in advance.
Near the top of that list has to be chemistry.
Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, shipped out Kendrick Perkins just before the trading deadline a year ago, hedging his bets that Jermaine O'Neal, Shaquille O'Neal and Semih Erden would hold up enough to fill the void left by Perkins.
He was wrong.
Both O'Neals were sidelined at different times with injuries, and Erden was eventually traded to Cleveland (along with Luke Harangody) for a future second-round pick. But the deal was motivated primarily to free up a roster spot for Troy Murphy.
That didn't work out, either.
For all that went wrong for the Celtics after the trade, the transaction's impact on team chemistry had a major ripple effect.
And so here we are a year later, with the C's looking to potentially do another trade that will once again jeopardize the team's chemistry which is significantly better now than it was at the start of this lockout-shortened season.
Celtics captain Paul Pierce told CSNNE.com that the C's chemistry now is as good as it has been all season.
"Chemistry is everything," Pierce said.
And it's not just the new guys who have to work on it, either.
"Even when you got players who get hurt and miss like four or five games, it takes some games just to get back chemistry with them players," Pierce said.
A right heel injury kept him out of all but one practice during the preseason, in addition to the first three games of the season.
His first few games back were a struggle, both for him and the C's.
"Even when I was out and coming back at the beginning of the year, even though we played together the year before, we didn't have that rhythm, that timing out there," Pierce said.
The trading deadline has brought about its share of trade rumors involving the C's, most of which center around Rajon Rondo and the Big Three of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
With such talk, Rondo has found himself being asked frequently about the Big Three and whether they can continue to play at the Hall of Fame-caliber they have throughout most of their careers.
Rondo said the Big Three bring a number of intangibles to the game, notably chemistry.
"You can't get chemistry if you bring in new guys," he said.
But with the season more than halfway over, players have not only found their individual stride but also how to bring that to the collective group and play more together than they did at the start of the season.
"We know where each other likes the ball and where we want to be on different defensive positions," Rondo said.
"I think so. Just having a consistent lineup out there. There's been times throughout the year, it seemed like the lineup was changing every week. We get a consistent lineup, consistent rotation out there, it helps the chemistry."
Pierce added, "you get to know each other's tendencies, what works and what doesn't. We understand what we're doing well, and we keep going back to that."