The Death of Ubuntu

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The Death of Ubuntu

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

DENVER At this point, you understand why Danny Ainge made the move.

Whether or not you agree with his logic is another story entirely.

For some out there in Celtics Nation, no line reasoning can make up for the fact that Kendrick Perkins is on his way to Oklahoma City, and nothing short of the 2011 title will reprieve Ainge for the decision. This camp watched Perk carve out a niche within this team of future Hall of Famers that not even his most ardent supporters could have imagined. They watched him grow from a goofy, oafish and uncoordinated rookie into one of the fiercest and effective defensive centers in the game. They watched him earn the respect and confidence of his far more talented teammates, and become what looked to be an irreplaceable part of the Celtics championship dreams. They watched Perkins go down last June, and then kill himself over the next seven months, only to get discarded 13 games into his comeback. For them, supporting this trade feels morally wrong. Its like asking out the girl who just broke your buddys heart.

Others are immune to the sentimentality of Perks departure. They havent forgotten this is a business, and see Perks knee, his soon-to-be excessive contract demands, the unexpected and urgent circumstances left by Marquis Daniels injury and understand this was a move Danny had to make. For this year, and the future.

Then, theres a third sect thats just still in shock. They dont know what to make of it. After all, the basketball world spent the last few weeks collectively obsessing over trade rumors like Ray Allen does his jumper. We thought we had every option pegged down. With the amount of time spent pouring over the possibilities, a surprise seemed about as likely as Avery Bradley winning Rookie of the Year. But obviously, we were all wrong. Now Kendrick Perkins plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder and that doesnt seem real. At least not yet.

Right now, as youre reading this, youre in one of those three camps. But for all the opposing opinions and the various pros and cons surrounding Perks departure, theres one thing that every one can agree on.

This Celtics team not the franchise, but this team will never be the same.

Losing Kendrick Perkins marked the end of an era.

Not the Kendrick Perkins Era, of course. Lets not get carried away. (Although its worth noting that hes one of only 25 guys in NBA history to play eight or more seasons for the Celtics.) Instead, its something much more important. Much more valuable than anyone in that locker room.

Perks trade marked the official end to the Era of Ubuntu.

It was a concept born, or at least adopted, during the teams 2007 trip through Europe. It was the reason the Celtics boarded that plane as 15 some-odd separate entities and returned ready to take the league by storm. Why they started the year 29-3 and cruised through a stress-free regular season. Sure, it helped that the Cs had three superstars leading the way, but as we learned this season down in South Beach, its not always that easy. It shouldnt be that easy. Its never that easy. But for the Celtics it was. Ubuntu was their way of life.

I am what I am because of who we all are."

Thats who this team was; how they approached every aspect of the game. It became the rallying cry for the entire season. And while youd be crazy to say that some random, age-old Bantu philosophy that no one on the team could even explain was solely responsible for an NBA title, youd also be blind to argue that that Celtics team didnt embody everything that Ubuntu was supposed to mean.

Despite all the talent, it was their chemistry and cohesive that set them apart. One goal. One page. One voice. One team. One title.

In a perfect world that 2008 team could have stayed intact, but thats not how it works these days. But as the years went on, and the faces changed, the heart of that 2008 team remained. It was always the starting five.

At times, injuries got in the way of ultimate success, but the confidence and chemistry never wavered. Weve spent the last four years talking about how the starting five had never lost a playoff series, and most of the time in that situation, that little stat would be a piece of media-created crap. But in this case, we didnt need it. In this case, it was the players who pushed that idea. They thrived off it. They believed it. When we are together, we are unbeatable. No one in the league could match that confidence. And while the Big Three still garnered most of the headlines, that starting five became the Celtics identity. If not in public, then for sure inside that locker room, and really, nothing else matters.

They were the Celtics starting five. Five very different guys with very different personalities, skill sets and approaches to the game, but together, they were Ubuntu.

They were what they were because of who they all were.

But now thats past tense. And so is that identity. And the Celtics are left scrambling to replace what was very likely their greatest advantage over the rest of the league.

Perkins may have been by far the least talented of that core, but he was the perfect fit. He understood that mentality and thrived in his role. Now the Celtics have two months to find a way to match a chemistry that was three and half years in the making.

Theyre left with Shaq, who, regardless of how much hes maybe changed, will always be bigger than the team. Theyre left with the unreliable Jermaine ONeal or the defenseless Nenad Krstic. Theyre left looking for an answer.

And thats not to say they cant find it.

It remains to be seen how this deal will work out for the Celtics, and anyone who sits here today and pretends to know how it will is just lying. Who knows what happens if the ONeals both get healthy. Or Troy Murphy shows up and finds some toughness. Or Jeff Green thrives in the presence of greatness. Or KG and Big Baby are able to withstand the weight of the entire front court for the extent of four playoff series.

But through all that indecision, and all the different opinions on what Danny should or shouldn't have done, theres one thing we know for sure.

Without Kendrick Perkins, these Celtics will never be the same.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Stars, studs, duds: Jae Crowder scores game-high 6 3-pointers

Stars, studs, duds: Jae Crowder scores game-high 6 3-pointers

BOSTON – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 123-111 Game 1 win over the Washington Wizards in their best-of-seven series. 

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: To be effective with all that he’s dealing with from an emotional standpoint continues to amaze us all. Thomas, just 24 hours removed from his younger sister’s funeral, delivered yet another gem of a game with 33 points on 11-for-23 shooting with nine assists with just two turnovers.

John Wall: Showing he’s more than just a guard with speed who can score, Wall finished with a double-double of 20 points on 9-for-20 shooting, to go with a game-high 16 assists.

STUDS

Jae Crowder: The Celtics needed a solid complimentary scorer to Isaiah Thomas, and Crowder was that dude during a critical third quarter stretch for Boston. He finished with a playoff career-high 24 points on 8-for-14 shooting with six rebounds. 

Bradley Beal: Half of one of the NBA’s best backcourts, Beal showed a much-improved postseason perimeter game. Having shot less than 30 percent on 3’s in Washington’s first-round series with Atlanta, Beal was 4-for-7 from long range which was part of his team high 27 -point game. 

Al Horford: Once again Horford flirted with a triple-double, scoring 21 points on 10-for-13 shooting, to go with 10 assists and nine rebounds with a blocked shot.  

Otto Porter Jr.: He was one of the few players for the Wizards whose plus/minus in Game 1 was positive (+3). He had 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting to go with 11 rebounds and two steals. 

Avery Bradley: The numbers don’t always tell the story when it comes to Bradley’s impact. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in Game 1, but he still managed to score 18 points on 7-for-20 shooting, in addition to grabbing five rebounds with four assists and four steals.

Kelly Oubre Jr.: He was a major factor in Washington’s fast start and with Markieff Morris’ knee injury, he may wind up starting Game 2. He finished with 12 points off the bench, shooting 5-for-8 from the field.

DUDS

Gerald Green: The Celtics remain undefeated with Green in the starting lineup, but his impact on Game 1 was nowhere to be found. He played just seven minutes without taking a single shot from the field. The only stat he registered was a turnover while his plus/minus on the floor was -13.

Isaiah Thomas scores 33 as Celtics beat Wizards in Game 1

Isaiah Thomas scores 33 as Celtics beat Wizards in Game 1

BOSTON – Two weeks ago, Isaiah Thomas was less than 24 hours removed from the death of his baby sister, Chyna Thomas. 

He played well, but it wasn’t enough to get the win because he got very little help from his teammates. 

Call it a lesson learned. 

Because 24 hours after attending the funeral of his sister in Tacoma, Washington, Thomas delivered yet another 33-point performance – just like he did in Game 1 against Chicago. 

But there was a difference on Sunday – he got some help this time. 

Thomas’ scoring coupled with a pair of teammates also cracking the 20-point plateau – Jae Crowder and Al Horford – was enough to propel Boston to a hard fought 123-111 Game 1 win over the Washington Wizards. 

Game 2 in this best-of-seven series will be Tuesday night at the TD Garden. 

This game, like most of the four regular season battles with Washington, was not easy to come by even when the Celtics seemingly had the game under control in the second half. 

After a red-hot third quarter that propelled Boston to a 15-point lead, the Celtics cooled off considerably to start the fourth. 

That’s all the Wizards needed as they opened the quarter with a 9-0 run, similar to how they began the game.  

Boston’s first points of the fourth didn’t come until Thomas made a short floater with just under eight minutes to play. 

Washington showed tremendous fight in trying to get back in the game, while the Celtics did what they needed to do in order to keep a healthy distance score-wise between themselves and the Wizards.

Indeed, the Celtics had fought too hard and for too long to blow this game. 

The Celtics didn’t take their first lead until a Crowder 3-pointer put Boston ahead 73-71 with just under seven minutes to play in the third quarter. He finished with a playoff career-high 24 points and six rebounds.

Washington soon tied it up, only for Crowder to strike again with another 3-pointer that made it a 76-73 game. 

The Celtics continued to surge ahead.

After a Marcus Smart steal, Avery Bradley moments later drained a wide open 3-pointer to give Boston an 81-74 lead to cap off a 13-3 run by the Celtics which led to a Wizards time-out with 4:45 to play in the quarter. 

Boston continued to pull away, ending the third with a 27-9 run which gave them a 95-80 lead going into the fourth quarter. 

The Wizards didn’t just come out hitting to start the game; they were absolutely smacking the Celtics around something silly as they opened the game with a 16-0 run and led by as many as 17 points in the first quarter. 

Marcin Gortat, who had a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds, did most of the damage early on. But as the game progressed, Washington’s John Wall (20 points, 16 assists) and Bradley Beal (27 points, four assists) put their imprint on the game as well.

Thomas got the Celtics on the scoreboard after being fouled on a three-point attempt. He would give Boston its first points of the game, making all three free throws with 8:04 to play in the quarter. 

The Celtics spent the rest of the first quarter facing a double-digit deficit which stood at 38-24 at the end of the first. 

Boston opened the second quarter with a 7-2 run which led to Wizards coach Scott Brooks calling a time-out with 10:27 to play in the half with Boston now trailing 40-31. 

The Celtics surge continued with the eventually tying the game up at 42-all after a Crowder 3-pointer. 

Washington regained the lead, but a 3-point play by Avery Bradley tied the game up again at 49-all.

Boston continued to hang close in the first half, which gave them the confidence to surge ahead in the second for the victory.