Religion, politics and the Perkins trade

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Religion, politics and the Perkins trade

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

It's been a while since I've really written anything about the Kendrick Perkins trade. In fact, unless you count taking veiled (or not-so-veiled) shots at Jeff Green, I've hardly mentioned it at all.

That's because most of the time, it's just not worth it.

It's gotten to the point where bringing up the Perk trade is like talking about religion or politics. It doesn't matter who the person is on the other side of the conversation, there's a good chance that you'll disagree. And if you do, it's going to get ugly.

What makes it such a hot-button issue is that, like religion and politics, each side of the argument has its own extremists: A very vocal and volatile minority that only sees things in black and white, and wont be satisfied until their opinions are accepted as fact.

Because they're so loud, they're typically the ones driving the conversation. Questions are raised, chaos ensues, and we just end up arguing over the wrong things.

For instance, the Celtics lose two in a row in Miami and the anti-trade camp rushes to uncover all the reasons why Perk wouldve helped. Meanwhile, the other sides scrambling to round up all the reasons he wouldnt have. The issue becomes: Would the Celtics be down 2-0 if they still had Kendrick Perkins?

And they spend the next three days yelling at each other:

Perk wouldve done this!

But he wouldnt have done that!
He can do this!

But he cant do that!

Both sides are wrong. Both sides are right. No ones wrong. No ones right. It goes on forever and the rest of us are stuck in the middle or leaning in one direction but mostly just shaking our heads and wishing everyone would just calm down.

When Danny Ainge pulled the trigger on this deal, we knew it would define this season. When everything happened, he said hed built a team to win this year, so that immediately became the barometer. And for that reason, it made sense for the jury to remain out until the season ended and all the evidence had been presented.

Instead, these two extremes argued every step of the way. After every loss, it was See! After every win, it was See! And now were in the playoffs, two-plus months since Perk was shipped out, and were still breaking it down on a game-by-game basis.

Listen, I know knee-jerk reactions are half the fun of being a sports fan. I know thats what keeps the phones lit up and the ratings high. But in this case, its just not important. After two months, it's no longer knee-jerk. Right now, the question: Would the Celtics be down 2-0 if they still had Kendrick Perkins? is completely irrelevant.

How can you just insert him into this series and ignore all thats happened since he left? How can we assume that anythings remained unaffected?

If he sticks around, maybe the Cs hold on to the No. 1 seed and this series doesnt exist. Maybe they hang on to the No. 2 seed, have home-court advantage, and everythings turned upside down.

On the other side: Sure, Perks healthy now. But how would he have held up when he came back from that second knee injury and was Bostons only center for the rest of March (and most of April)?

Also, if the Celtics never traded Perk, they wouldnt have acquired Jeff Green (wait, let me just embrace that for a second). But they still would have made a deal for a small forward. So, whod they get? Howd he play? Hows he playing now?

Of course, there are no answers to any these questions. Theyre all hypothetical. Just like: Would the Celtics be down 2-0 if they still had Perk? We just dont know. And never will.

So why bother? Why even make it about Perk? As of today, whats he going to do to get the Celtics out of this hole? What hes going to do to save their season?

Believe me, I love Perk as much as the next guy. But at this moment, I couldnt care less about him.

You want to argue that theyd be better with him still on the team? Sure, Ill buy it.

You want to tell me that theyd be worse? Okay. Im sold.

You want to say it doesnt make a difference? Yes! Im right there with you!

Honestly, I dont care. Im more concerned with this. The one thing that we know for sure about the current state of the Celtics, and the one thing that everyone, regardless of where they stand on the trade, can agree upon:

The team Danny Ainge thought he was putting together still hasnt come together.

And theyre running out of time to do so.

Maybe all the pieces are there. Actually, if Shaq plays on Sunday, all the pieces are there. But the pieces dont quite fit. And until (or unless) they lose two more games, thats all that matters. That locker room, at this moment. Not a guy who hasn't played a game at the Garden since two days after Valentine's Day.

Theyll be plenty of time to do that after the seasons over and the final verdicts been handed down. Well have the rest of our lives to debate the Kendrick Perkins trade.

And something tells me we will.

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

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

CLEVELAND – There are 240 minutes of play in an NBA game, but Boston’s 112-99 Game 4 loss to Cleveland came down to seven (six minutes and 46 seconds to be precise).

That would be the amount of time left in the second quarter that LeBron James spent on the bench with four personal fouls (a first for him in the first half of an NBA playoff game ever) and Boston ahead by 10 points.

Boston could not have asked for a better scenario than that, especially considering how well they had played up to that point in the game and again, knowing that James wasn’t about to set foot back on the court until the third quarter.

But here’s the problem.

Boston’s 10-point lead when James left with four fouls.

Halftime rolled around and Boston’s lead was still at just 10 points.

Celtics players agreed that not finding a way to increase their lead with James out was among the more pivotal stretches of play in Game 4.

“They did a really good job of not letting it (the 10-point lead) get out of control while he was on the bench,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told CSNNE.com. “Every time we scored, they came back and scored.  They answered back with everything we answered.”

While many will point to that stretch as a time when the Celtics failed to make the necessary adjustments to increase their chances of winning, it wasn’t as if the Cavs are a one-man team.

“They still have two All-Stars out on the court,” said Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, referring to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. “With the best player in the world they go to unreal, but they’re still a pretty darned good team when those guys are out there.”

Irving had a playoff career-high 42 points which included him scoring 12 of Cleveland’s 14 points in the final 6:46 of the second with James on the bench.

“He’s one of the best point guards in the NBA, and you know, you can tell he puts in a lot of work in his game, a lot of respect from myself, my teammates,” said Avery Bradley. “We have to do a better job at defending him as a unit, trying to make everything hard on him. He definitely got a great rhythm going tonight, and I felt like we had a chance to make it harder on him.”

James still finished with a strong stat line for the night – 34 points, six assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.

As good as he was on the court, the Celtics have to be kicking themselves for not doing more with the time James on the bench in the second quarter which in hindsight, was among the bigger factors in them now returning home facing elimination as opposed to being tied at two games apiece in this series.

“What are you going to do?” said Cleveland’s Kevin Love. “You have to continue to fight through it. At halftime, we were down 10. We made some adjustments on the defensive end and we just fought; we needed to. They got everything out of us tonight in that second half, but we played more inspired basketball as well.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

CLEVELAND – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Tuesday night’s Game 4 matchup between Boston and Cleveland which ended with the Cavs rallying for a 112-99 win. Boston now trails Cleveland 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving

He was simply the best player on the floor by a mile in Game 4 as he tallied a career playoff-high 42 points with 21 coming in the pivotal third quarter.

LeBron James

Despite picking up four personal fouls in the first half – a first for him in a playoff game ever – James bounced back with a dominant performance. He finished with 34 points, 15 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter. He also had six assists and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Jae Crowder

He continues to be one of the more consistent Celtics in this series. In Game 4, he had 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting with eight rebounds and four assists.

Kevin Love

Most of Game 4, Kevin Love found ways to make life difficult for the Celtics. He ended up with a double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds with five assists and two blocked shots.

Avery Bradley

Boston’s Game 3 hero couldn’t deliver like that in Game 4, but Bradley still managed to score a team-high 19 points to go with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

 

DUDS

Boston’s sense of urgency

They had the Cavs in prime position to be beaten. But they didn’t play with the kind of effort and focus in the second half, that we saw through most of the first. And that 6:46 stretch in the second quarter when LeBron James was on the bench, and they didn’t increase their lead? That was a major, major factor in the game’s outcome.