By A. Sherrod Blakely
LOS ANGELES There are varying degrees of disappointment felt now by anyone who watched or had the privilege of playing with Kendrick Perkins, who may be the nicest mean-muggin' dude to ever play the game.
Fans, as well as his Boston Celtics teammates, are clearly bummed about Perkins being traded to Oklahoma City.
But y'all know if Jeff Green comes in here, puts up big numbers and we're rockin' down Causeway Street in June with Banner 18, all will be forgiven.
There have been questions raised about how Perkins' departure will impact team chemistry.
No worries, folks.
These guys are too talented and too motivated to allow something like that to become an issue.
No, it's not team chemistry you need to worry about.
It's Kevin Garnett.
When you look at all the players who will be impacted by Perkins being traded to Oklahoma City, no one will feel this more than Garnett.
Garnett was a great defender before he arrived in Boston.
Perkins' presence allowed him to be even better.
You think it was just a coincidence that the first year KG played with an above-average defensive big man like Perkins, he just so happened to win the league's Defensive Player of the Year award for the first time, that same year?
Even with Perkins, Garnett's plate defensively is pretty stacked.
Now that he's gone, it takes on buffet-esque proportions.
The issue isn't whether Garnett can handle the added responsibilities.
The bigger concern is how much will they take out of him heading into the playoffs.
Boston did a wonderful job last season of managing Garnett's minutes, and essentially unleashing a healthy, ready to kick ass KG on a bunch of unsuspecting wannabe title contenders.
The C's won't have the luxury of limiting Garnett like they did a year ago.
Last season's squad was talented enough to win every playoff series, with or without home court advantage.
They knew this, and so did the rest of the league.
Just about every contender from a year ago, has made tremendous strides to where home court advantage is expected to become a major difference-maker in who moves on throughout the postseason.
Miami. Chicago. Even the Orlando Magic.
All three are good enough to knock off the Celtics in a best-of-seven series, which is why home court advantage throughout the playoffs is valued so highly by all teams in the East this season.
Now replacing Perkins in the starting lineup will be the man who held it down while Perkins was out recovering from his right knee injury, Shaquille O'Neal.
That's a pretty good trade off, just as long as O'Neal can stay healthy.
We're talking about Shaquille, but we might as well be talking about Jermaine, too.
So far, Boston cornering the NBA market on O'Neals hasn't been quite the investment we thought it would be.
Injuries have limited them to a combined 53 games this season, which has put even more pressure on the Celtics' healthy big men to perform.
But there's more to performing than simply putting up numbers.
Big men have to establish a certain presence around the basket, a certain toughness that gives opponents second thoughts about attacking the rim.
Perkins delivered that, daily.
Now it's on KG to do the same.
Garnett is considered one of the NBA's biggest trash talkers, but you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who sees him as one of the league's tough guys.
On this Celtics team, he didn't need to be that guy, not with Perkins around.
But now that the resident enforcer is no longer around, Garnett will clearly be the one looked to as the protector of not only the paint but also his people in Green when others try to rough them up.
These are all things that you can't ignore when you think about the impact of this trade.
But it's done, and there's no turning back from it now.
The disappointment that losing Perkins has brought on, that will subside soon as Celtics Nation prepares to welcome its two newest members.
But there's no mistaking that Perkins' departure will impact this team in more ways than you can imagine.
And nobody will feel this more than Kevin Garnett.