Search This Blog

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Celtics in the Post-Perkins Era

By Connor Witt

It’s been the question that has run rampant in the minds of basketball enthusiasts since the February 24th trade deadline. How would the Boston Celtics fare without Kendrick Perkins, their best interior defender and emotional leader? He was far from Boston’s best player, but according to the other players he was an important part of the team’s chemistry. There are two worthwhile analogies that could play out in the post-Perk era in Boston. Best case scenario: Kendrick Perkins is guitarist Hillel Slovak of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (minus the heroin). The Chili Peppers enjoyed considerable success with Slovak, but were still able to continue their success after his death with John Frusciante. (For the sake of the argument Paul Pierce is frontman Anthony Kiedis, Garnett is Flea, Ray Allen is Chad Smith, and Rondo is Josh Klinghoffer.) The grimmer alternative is that the Celtics go the way of the Backstreet Boys, who were tragically unable to recapture the success of 1999’s Millenium after Kevin Richardson’s departure from the group. Now that I have included the Backstreet Boys in a basketball column and hell has frozen over, let’s take a look at what the Celtics have displayed since the Perkins trade that sent them Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, and a first round pick in 2012.

The numbers are undeniable. Pre-trade, the Celtics record stood at 40-14 and was good for first in the East. Since: 15-12. But this is basketball not math, and anything can happen in the playoffs. The rationale – or at least the hope – of Boston’s front office was that Jeff Green’s perimeter defense could keep Paul Pierce from defending the opponent’s most athletic wing scorer throughout the postseason (Carmelo, LeBron, Bryant, etc.) With the opening of the playoffs America got its first taste of the new-and-not-necessarily-improved Celtics in postseason form.

            Facing the Knicks in the first round was a dream come true for curious basketball fans like myself. The Knicks provide an intriguing test because they possess one of the NBA’s premier wing scorers in Carmelo Anthony and one of the league’s best post threats in Amar’e Stoudemire. General Manager Danny Ainge finally got to see if his latest move would rival the success of the Garnett/Allen acquisitions or be a disaster on par with Mark Blount’s six-year, $42 million contract. The Celtics were unimpressive in the first half, and it had me wondering whether this aging team is officially over the hump. Never was Perkins’ absence more glaring than when Amar’e Stoudemire completed a huge slam over Glen Davis with 34 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

In the second half the Celtics shut down Carmelo Anthony and were able to escape the game with a victory following some late-game heroics from Ray Allen. However, Jermaine O’Neal played out of his mind this game and his contribution will be crucial to Boston’s success in this series and throughout. So are the 2011 Celtics the Red Hot Chili Peppers or the Backstreet Boys? Perhaps Jermaine holds the answer.

Court Adjourned.

No comments:

Post a Comment