By A. Sherrod Blakely
SALT LAKE CITY When the season began, the Boston Celtics were a team built for one thing: to knock off the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.
But the C's are well-versed on not getting too ahead of themselves.
A bunch of teams in the East did that last season, which opened the door for the Celtics to make an unexpected and improbable run to the NBA Finals as a fourth seed.
So while so much attention surrounding the Celts' recent trades has centered around how it will affect their chances of bringing home Banner 18, overlooked has been its potential impact on them getting out of the Eastern Conference.
When you look at the teams that the Celtics will have to, in all likelihood, battle to get to the Finals, they all have one thing in common - high-impact players at the small forward position.
LeBron James in Miami. Luol Deng in Chicago. Carmelo Anthony in New York. Joe Johnson in Atlanta. Hedo Turkoglu in Orlando.
Now, Boston's Paul Pierce can more than hold his own with the best of them.
But to think the Celtics won't need additional help at that position is just not being realistic.
When you look back at the success that the C's had a year ago in the playoffs, it was due in part because of their ability to attack teams in waves.
Pierce was Boston's best threat at the small-forward position, but the contributions made a year ago by Tony Allen (now with the Memphis Grizzlies) cannot be ignored. And when you look back at the 2008 title team, James Posey's play was vital to the title run as well.
Von Wafer has done a solid job of helping fill that void at the backup-small forward position, but the Celtics knew they needed an upgrade if they were going to have the kind of season they envision.
The anger and outrage that followed the Perkins trade has subsided some, which is allowing Celtics Nation to see this deal for what it really is.
Of course Perkins' contract was a factor, and his health to a lesser extent.
But this deal was driven primarily with one goal in mind: to give the Celtics a better chance of getting out of the Eastern Conference.
And as it should be, making that kind of improvement should come with a hefty cost; in this instance, it was losing Kendrick Perkins.
But it is the price Danny Ainge had to pay to ensure that the C's, at the very least, were going to have a shot at being one of the last teams standing.
The addition of Jeff Green is supposed to help lessen some of the wear and tear on Pierce, who hasn't had a legit backup at the small-forward position since Marquis Daniels (now with the Sacramento Kings) went down with a bruised spinal cord injury on Feb. 6 against Orlando.
You can count Pierce among those upset initially by the trade.
But as the shock wore off and he started to see the potential with the trade, Pierce seems to have a better feel for how this may be exactly what the C's need right now to deal with a league filled with high-scoring, high impact players at the small forward position.
"That's going to be huge as far as matchups," Pierce told CSNNE.com about the addition of Green, who, at 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds, can play both forward positions. "When you start looking at the playoffs, you look at the number of guys I've had to guard over the years, you look at LeBron, Turkoglu and now possibly Carmelo Anthony, who was recently traded to New York from Denver. You bring in a guy that can definitely match up with them if I get into foul trouble or anything like that."
But Pierce also believes that he and Green can cause major problems for opponents when they're on the floor together.
"We can definitely play together, and force teams to really pick their poison," Pierce said. "He's a guy that can play on the perimeter and post-up, and be a major matchup problem. I can present that too at the wing. Having Jeff, it definitely gives us some versatility in that aspect."