By A.Sherrod Blakely
CHICAGO Former Boston Celtics forward Brian Scalabrine still believes the C's are one of the top teams in the NBA.
But you can throw him into the camp that believes the loss of Perkins has given many teams -- including his current club, the Chicago Bulls -- a boost of confidence that they can do some things against the Celtics that they weren't able to do before Perkins was traded.
"For us, Perkins was an intimidating factor at the rim," Scalabrine told Comcast SportsNet prior to Thursday night's game. "Kevin Garnett and Perkins out there, that's a big deal."
While the Celtics are certainly not the same team since Perkins was traded to Oklahoma City on Feb. 24, it's not like they weren't used to playing without him.
Perkins suffered a torn MCL and PCL in Game Six of the NBA Finals last June. He didn't return to the Celtics lineup until Jan. 25 against Cleveland.
The Celtics traded Perkins, along with Nate Robinson, to Oklahoma City on Feb. 24 for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.
Prior to the trade, Perkins was sidelined with a knee injury that was non-related to the torn MCL and PCL injury he suffered earlier.
He eventually joined the Thunder's lineup, and has been instrumental in them winning 10 of the 13 games he has appeared in this season.
Meanwhile, the Celtics are 13-9 since Green and Krstic joined the team.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant, recognizes how the trade has given the C's added depth. He also points out how even with the moves, the group you see on the floor to end most games isn't all that different now than the group that closed out games when Perkins was around.
However, Thibodeau acknowledges that they are definitely a different team without Perkins.
"He's a very good all-around player for them," Thibodeau said. "He benefited from being around Kevin a lot."
Looking back at the 2008 championship team, Perkins spent most of his time trying to establish position in the post.
Meanwhile, Garnett would be running around the court most games setting screens, and occasionally look to take his man down on the block.
"Kevin has a right to call for the ball every time down the floor," Thibodeau said. "But he never does that. He flies all around setting screens. What that led to, was Perkins ending up doing the same thing. They created a lot of easy offense for their team. And defensively, when you put Perkins and Garnett out there together, it was probably as good as it gets in terms of length, intelligence, pick-and-roll defense, catch-and-shoot defense . . . he was a terrific player. He understood his role."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers can understand why so many fans still pine away at the days in which Perkins wore a Celtics uniform.
That doesn't bother him.
What does irritate him is the perception that the trade made the Celtics a smaller team.
When the Celtics traded Perkins, they did so with the intent being that Shaquille O'Neal would be on the floor relatively soon afterward.
Since the trade, O'Neal has played a total of just six minutes. He's currently out with a right calf strain injury.
"I don't what people expect, honestly," Rivers said. "That part of it, I don't care. But we didn't get smaller. That's the one thing you keep hearing, 'We got smaller.' Actually, we've gotten bigger if Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal play and all of them play. But they haven't played. So how could anyone know."