25 February 2011

Family Business

Currently pushing: NBA's The Association, featuring the 2010-11 Boston Celtics. The third episode just came out and there are only two more left. Clearly episode four will be about the end of the regular season -- with a strong focus on the loss of Kendrick Perkins -- and then the season finale will be about the Celtics winning their eighteenth championship. Sorry to ruin the ending.

Thursday was the day I was scheduled to fly back to San Diego and also the NBA trading deadline. Already thrilled by the bevy of basketball happenings this week, I was afraid that I would be in the air when all the drama unfolded. Luckily my layover in Baltimore was three and a half hours long. I had the chance to stand by for an earlier flight but figured between my laptop and trying to keep tabs on what my beloved Celtics would do, I'd stick around Charm City. (For the record, I haven't hung out much in Baltimore but "Charm City" is a very unlikely moniker.) Anyway, as the trade deadline came and went, I kept hitting refresh on my sports feeds. Earlier, George and I had been texting back and forth, building excitement and discussing possibilities.

Lemme lay out the story for those uninitiated: The Boston Celtics have been one of the best teams in basketball this season and are the favorites to reach their second Finals appearance in a row. The only thing holding them back would be injuries. Missing an additional big body and a swingman, all Celtic fans knew that Danny Ainge had to do something. Often hailed as one of the savvier general managers in the game, I was excited for the magic Ainge would undoubtedly pull off. Personally, I was hoping for Shane Battier or Grant Hill, a couple of classy veterans whose experience, defense, and solid shooting would secure our title chances. Instead the deadline seemed to pass with the Celtics having done nothing.

Then I read on some NBA analyst's Twitter that the Celtics had agreed to trade Kendrick Perkins in exchange for Jeff Green. "Trade Kendrick Perkins!" I thought, "how ludicrous!" Perkins is our scowling center and the key to us defending the likes of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. After busting his knee in Game 5 of last year's Finals, Perkins' absence caused the Celtics to get pummeled inside as they eventually lost to the Lakers in seven games -- it hurts to type this, yes it does. There was no way we'd trade Kendrick!

Well, as the world now knows, we did trade him. Along with Nate Robinson. What we got back were two softies, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. It boggles the mind. I won't go into the pros and cons of this trade, or what made Danny do it, but read some analysis here if you want to. The jury is definitely out on whether or not this was a wise move. Along with trading away Perkins and Robinson, three other guys were moved for some roster space and future considerations. The Celtics starting five that had never lost a playoff series together is no more.

What hurts the most is that Kendrick Perkins loved being a Celtic. He was loyal, he cared, he worked hard to come back from injury, and he's never known another professional basketball home. It's possible he would have left this summer via free agency but Perk deserved to try to win one more ring with his guys. Reports are that he cried when he heard about the trade. Kevin Garnett, the heart and soul of the team, said it best: "Very tough day to play basketball, to even concentrate. Just being bluntly honest. You feel like you lost a family member today. Tough day."

Maybe this trade makes the Celtics a champion again. Maybe Jeff Green is actually good. Maybe the Big Shamrock can keep it healthy for a playoff run. Maybe Ainge is smarter than everyone else. Still, this trade is so painful. I swore I'd care less about sports after last season's Finals loss, but I guess I was all sucked in again.

"Selfishly, I wanted one more chance with them: Garnett, Pierce, Allen, Rondo, Perkins, Baby and Doc, the only seven guys who mattered here. But that's the thing about sports -- 'them' always seems to change when you least expect it.... Doesn't matter how old you are, where you are in your life, where you're living…there's no feeling quite like your favorite team trading someone you genuinely liked."
-Bill Simmons on the trade (scroll down)-
In related news, I'm going to the Clippers versus Celtics game tomorrow. It's my first ever Celtics basketball game. I'm going to be sitting super close. I'm going to witness the first night of the Jeff Green experiment. I'm probably going to have one of the best times of my life. I'm probably going to be wearing my Celtics jersey and matching headband and long socks. But I won't be seeing Kendrick in Celtic green. Sigh.