By Rich Levine
SALT LAKE CITY Its been a few days now since Kendrick Perkins was sent packing, and with time, the reality that hes no longer a part of this Celtics team has started to set in.
By next week, it will feel like five months since the deal went down. Before we know it, the sight of Perk in a Thunder jersey will look and feel as commonplace as Big Baby taking a charge or a KG cursing out an opponent.
Its like anything in life. A death in the family, a bad breakup, forgetting your favorite shirt in a Denver hotel room only to later be told that the maid found nothing (sorry, that came from a dark place). Basically, you always remember the good times, but you have to move on. You dont really have a choice.
But as we begin to separate ourselves from the drama that surrounded Perkins exit, theres one thing thats stuck with me. Its something Paul Pierce said in the aftermath of the Celtics Thursday nightpost-deadline loss to Denver.
At this point, it was already well-known that the veterans were unhappy with Perks departure, and Pierce was the first of the Celtics starters to address the issue. Now, a lot of the times (okay, almost ALL the time) these postgame interviews are about as canned as an Oscar acceptance speech. You can usually write out the answers before the guy even responds. But that night was different. That night, Pierce spoke more candidly than he had at any point since Game Seven of last years Finals. Or maybe even the night of the ring ceremony in 2008, when he broke into tears on the parquet.
Pierce went into how much Perkins had meant to the team, and himself. How sad he was to see him go, and how he just hoped Danny and Doc knew what they were doing. Then, in making the required remark about how "basketballs a business," Pierce made an interesting comparison:
Its a tough situation, its a tough business, but you saw how the business works all in one week, Pierce said. Everybody complains and talks about how Carmelo Anthony dictated what was going on in his situation. Where, in another situation, a guy cant control what goes on. So its both sides to the business. You cant be mad at either one of them. Just understand that thats the nature of the beast.
He continued . . .
Everybody thought LeBron James was cold for leaving Cleveland the way he did. This is an example of how it happens on the management end. You cant get mad at the players because it could happen to them unexpectedly, just like a player can go anywhere he wants. Thats just what it is.
Now, obviously the LeBron comparison isnt quite as powerful because it wasnt as much his decision as it was The Decision that rubbed everyone the wrong way. Still, Pierce makes a great point.
We really cant have it both ways. We cant expect the players to be completely selfless when it comes to trades, contracts and extensions, because theyve all seen what can happen. Say what you want about Carmelo, but I highly doubt he ever really wanted to hurt the city and fans of Denver. But when it came time for the extension, he had to be selfish. He had to go to the place that was best for him, best for his career. If he had to upset some people along the way, well, that's the way it goes. You cant please everybody.
At the end of the day, he has to look out for himself and his family, because no one else will. So he wanted go to New York? Fine. Wouldnt you?
In the same light, you know Danny Ainge loved Kendrick Perkins. You know Ainge never wanted to treat Perk the way he did, to leave him sitting in a Denver hotel room in tears as his former teammates took on the Nuggets.
But, again, at the end of the day, Danny Ainge has to do whats best for himself. His job is to win. That's the way he supports his family, and the only way he can keep his job is to build a sustainable winning basketball team. And as much as he loved Perk, it wouldnt have been fair to ask Ainge to not make what he thought was the best move for the team, just because it was going to hurt a players feelings especially if that player was just going to leave the team in three months anyway.
As Pierce said, You cant be mad at either one of them. Just understand that thats the nature of the beast.
Another reason fans cant get mad at either side? Because were just as guilty.
For instance, consider this:
Lets pretend its the summer of 2012. Blake Griffins fresh off averaging 3020 for the season. The 'Wolves are still waiting for Ricky Rubio. The Mayans are all embarrassed because the world still exists. And free agent Dwight Howard is about to end the speculation over his next NBA destination.
So Dwight hops on TV, sits down across from Jim Gray and announces to a stunned nation:
Im taking my talents to Lake Erie!
Not that this would happen, but just for fun, what if it did? What would be the reaction in Cleveland if Dwight Howard up and left Orlando for the Cavs? You know what it would be: Pandemonium. It would be one of the greatest days in franchise history. There would be rallies, non-stop parties. Dan Gilbert would run around screaming, I told you, Cleveland! Were back! Mwahahahaha! It would be Comic Sans Central.
Meanwhile, Magic fans are catatonic. But the people of Cleveland couldnt care less. Same way the people of Miami didnt care about them. The same way the people of Boston didnt care about anyone in Minnesota after KG. Same way New Yorkers cant be bothered by the little kids in Denver who just lost their idol.
So thats one side of the business. The other side happens when theres a trade like the one with Perkins. When someone is blindsided, and forced to move across the country at the drop of a hat. Trades like that break up families, they change lives. And for those who were really bothered by the Perk deal, that was a rallying cry. What about his family? What about his little son? Thats ruthless. But I guarantee the fans in Oklahoma City havent considered that once. Theyre just excited to have a big body to take on the Lakers and Spurs.
Going back to that Carmelo deal, it absolutely crushed Chauncey Billups to have to move to New York. It crushed everyone in Denver for him to leave. From the outside, you can sympathize with that. But if you live in New York, do you really care? Whats more important: Breaking up the Billups family or Mr. Big Shot helping you beat the Heat?
Bringing it back to Boston, Ill be honest: I have absolutely no idea if Jeff Green or Nenad Krstic are married or have kids or anything about what their lives were like back in OKC. They could be in the same situation as Perk or Chauncey, but Ive been to busy wondering if either can play defense. The fact that their lives were flipped upside last week hasnt even crossed my mind.
In the end, were just as bad as the players we criticize. And I think thats fine. Like Paul said, its just the nature of the beast. Everyone's guilty.
Players are going to do what they think is best for their careers. Executives are going to do whats best for their career. Fans are going to root for whatever is best for their team. Sympathy only exists when its convenient.
It's unfortunate, but there's nothing we can do to change it. The beast is stubborn as hell. So we might as well just quit being so surprised or offended when it ultimately acts out.