Boston’s Danny Ainge learned from history, tries to avoid repeating it

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When the Boston Celtics powerhouse teams of the ‘80s wound down, the wheels came off that franchise. There were a lot of factors; Len Bias was a big one.

Current Celtics GM Danny Ainge — a member of those teams — has said the Celtics made a mistake trying to ride the wave all the way in to shore, then they couldn’t paddle back out. They were not aggressive enough in dealing with the decline, something Zach Lowe reminded us of at Sports Illustrated.

Thursday ainge put that history lesson into action. He traded Kendrick Perkins (and Nate Robinson) for an overrated forward in Jeff Green and a nice backup center in Nenad Krstic.

It’s a move that makes the Celtics worse today. They have Glen Davis, but they are now counting on Shaquille O’Neal (and to a lesser degree Jermaine O’Neal) to be healthy and stay healthy through the playoffs. Kevin Garnett and his iron will are still there. But Perkins will now be scowling at Kevin Durant.

Boston did not become weak with this move — they are still a contender in the East. They had the best record in the East when he was out. They still could get another banner this year. They still have Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. They traded Semih Erden and Luke Harangody to free up roster spaces so they go get Troy Murphy — not Rasheed Wallace, he’s not coming — or someone else who is bought out. They will still be in the title hunt no matter what.

The risk is in the playoff matchups. Perkins is a good post defender. He was their man against Dwight Howard. Shaq cannot handle Howard as well and is far more foul prone. Big Baby struggles against him. It’s going to take a team effort. Thing is, the Celtics old strategy was to leave Perkins on an island with Howard and take away everyone else because Perk could slow Howard. This changes that game. But the Magic still have a host of other non-Howard problems, and Boston would still be a favorite.

But what about the Heat? Will the defense be the same when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade come driving into the lane? And the biggest threat, what about the Lakers? Andrew Bynum and Paul Gasol played volleyball with each other at the net in Game 7 when Perkins was out last season. Maybe the Lakers can’t get by the Spurs, but is that the risk you take.

Perkins might have left this summer for nothing. Boston made a four-year, $22 million offer to him (the max extension offer they could make off his current deal) and he turned it down. Perkins wants to get paid. Ainge didn’t want to risk that future, so he made a move. He got a good pick from the Clippers, and the Celtics don’t get a lot of quality picks (theirs are usually late in the round) so that is a plus. He got Jeff Green, who the Celtics drafted and maybe can start to approach the potential of his athleticism. The Celtics also have Rondo, who will be at the heart of their rebuilding efforts.

But to trade a core player in the middle of a championship window? That’s a ballsy move. A big risk. If Boston wins it all, Ainge looks genius. He has kept winning and started a transition to the future.

But if they don’t, if the Celtics lose somewhere along the line — especially to a team with great play up front — Ainge is going to hear it. Because most people want to ride that wave all the way into shore.

Rockets’ Eric Gordon wins NBA Sixth Man of the Year

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Eric Gordon could never quite get fully healthy or find his place in New Orleans.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey saw the potential for how he would fit in as a shooter in Mike D’Antoni’s offense, and he signed him to a multi-year deal.

It worked. Gordon averaged 16.2 points per game coming off the bench, and shot 37.2 percent from three — full healthy he is part of what made the James-Harden-as-point-guard experiment work.

Monday night, Gordon was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

“We just had an unbelievable year here with the Rockets,” Gordon said in his acceptance speech at the NBA Awards Ceremony. “I want to thank (owner) Leslie Alexander of the Rockets for just believing in me. I’d also like to thank my teammates and coaches for making my job easy this year.”

Gordon beat out Rockets teammate Lou Williams (who spent much of the season racking up buckets with the Lakers in a bench role) and Andre Iguodala, who didn’t have the offensive numbers but certainly was at the heart of key Warriors lineups, plus he has a ring for his effort.

Just a reminder, Eric Gordon is locked in through 2019-20 with the Rockets on a very reasonable contract. He could pick up another one or two of these in the coming years.

Malcolm Brogdon wins 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year Award (VIDEO)

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Move over, Joel Embiid. Malcolm Brogdon is your 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year.

The Milwaukee Bucks rookie took home the award beating out other big-name contenders like Embiid and Dario Saric, both of the Philadelphia 76ers.

The win for Brogdon makes it a historic night for Bucks fans. Milwaukee didn’t take him until the 36th in the second round, making Brogdon the first player to win ROY after being drafted outside of the first round in 60 years.

Brogdon averaged 10.2 points, 4.2 assists, and 2.8 rebounds rebounds per game while shooting 40.4 percent from 3-point range.

Speaking to the crowd on stage after accepting his award, Brogdon said,”This is a testament to guys that are underestimated, guys that are second round picks, guys that are undrafted every year.”

Brogdon beat out both Sixers rookies, likely because of his impact over the course of the season for Milwaukee and because Embiid did not play the full season.

It is an impressive feat for any player, so a big congratulations to Brogdon to Bucks fans.

Draymond Green’s suit at the 2017 NBA Awards was really something (PHOTO)

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Is Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green fashion-forward? I’m not so sure.

He was certainly be a lot cooler than his contemporaries, given that he went with an interesting choice for his suit at the 2017 NBA Awards on Monday.

Specifically, Green showed up wearing shorts.

Yup, the dream that you have all summer long at your office job — shorts instead of slacks when it’s 90 degrees out — is what Green decided to go with.

Via Twitter:

Although his suit jacket makes him look like the maître d’ at a Seattle Mariners-themed restaurant, I have no doubt that he was much more comfortable than his buddies.

Those shoes gotta go though.

Eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard: “I have a lot left in the tank”

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — At 31 and entering his 14th NBA season, eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard says his best basketball is ahead of him.

Wearing a teal suit with black trim, a smiling Howard insisted Monday he can return to being a dominant center with the Charlotte Hornets, where he will be reunited with coach Steve Clifford and play for one of his childhood heroes, team owner Michael Jordan.

“A lot of people have written me off, which is great because it’s going to make me work even harder,” Howard said during his introductory news conference. “I’m just looking forward to this opportunity because I have a lot left in the tank.”

This will be Howard’s third team in three seasons.

The Atlanta Hawks, his hometown team, traded him to Charlotte one year into a three-year, $74 million contract. Howard said he has no hard feelings, adding that “sometimes things just don’t work out.”

But he’s confident Charlotte is the right fit.

“I think I’m a lot healthier than I have been in the past five years and I think this is going to be my best time,” Howard said. “I’m a lot wiser now, stronger mentally and physically, and I’m in the right place with a great coach, a great GM and the GOAT (greatest of all time). So I think this is the perfect opportunity.”

Much of Howard’s optimism stems from being reunited with Clifford.

They worked together for seven seasons in Orlando and Los Angeles, and the 6-foot-11 three-time Defensive Player of the Year loves Clifford’s defense-first mentality. He’s also confident Clifford will put him in the right situations to succeed on offense.

“He understands me,” Howard said. “… He was always there for me and not once did he turn his back on me or talk bad about me. He was very positive and he was somebody that I have always trusted in.”

The feeling is mutual.

Clifford said he’s never coached a player smarter than Howard when it comes to understanding defensive coverages. While Howard has incredible athletic ability, Clifford said, he’s never been given the credit he deserves for playing a “thinking man’s game.”

“Smart always wins in the NBA,” Clifford said.

Howard is expected to start in Charlotte alongside All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, guard Nic Batum and forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams. Cody Zeller, last year’s starting center, is expected to come off the bench for the Hornets but still see significant minutes.

Howard said he’s learned a lot over the past 13 seasons.

“Over the years a lot of things have been said and I’ve not said anything back,” Howard said. “Somehow things that weren’t true kept getting stirred up, and that gave a lot of people wrong opinions about who I was as a person. I should be the one speaking up for myself instead of allowing other people to do that.”

In Charlotte, Howard becomes the second big-name athlete to be known as “Superman,” joining former NFL MVP quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers.

Both are from the Atlanta area and have met a couple of times but aren’t close friends. Howard said he’s eager to connect with Newton and get to know him better.

“We have the same attitude; we love to win, but we want to have fun,” Howard said.