By Rich Levine
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.