Ainge: Perkins trade not the reason team lost

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The moment the trade of Kendrick Perkins went through, you knew this is how it would go down — when the Celtics fell out of the playoffs the trade was going to be blamed. Danny Ainge was going to get blamed.

Throw in an early second round exit and you have Ainge getting a lot of heat.

But he still defends the trade.

Ainge went on CSN New England and said the trade of Perkins to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green (other players were involved as well). (Watch the video at the bottom of this post)

“I don’t think that the presence of one player standing in the middle of the paint was going to [help] our offense score more, wasn’t going to prevent LeBron James from shooting step-back 3-point jump shots with Paul Pierce and Jeff Green draped all over him,” Ainge told Comcast SportsNet’s Greg Dickerson in a one-on-one interview.

“I mean, we scored zero points with four or five minutes to go in two games. That was not because of who we had playing center. That had a lot more to do with our best players not being able to score.”

And please don’t tell him the Celtics lost their toughness when they lost Perkins.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. We lose our toughness because we trade one player?” he said. “What do you think Kevin Garnett feels about that? What do you think Paul Pierce and Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo [feel about that]? Like, we only have one guy that’s a tough player, that brings an element of toughness?”

Ainge is right. Kind of. Having Perkins in house would not have given the Celtics the offense in the paint they lacked against the Heat. Perkins alone could not have swung that series.

But an implied part of the Perkins trade was putting all their eggs in the Shaquille O’Neal basket. And that proved to be the real issue. The Shaq from November might have made a difference in this series, but the fact he never came close and there was no good backup plan can be put on Ainge. Unless you consider Jermaine O’Neal a good backup plan. Sure, nobody expected Shaq to be out that long. But Shaq was supposed to be the Plan B when he was signed and when he became Plan A there came with that big risks.

And remember you may get Shaq back — Shaq has a player option for next season. He can pick it up and return and there is nothing you can do about it. That is on Ainge, too.

Ainge admits the trade didn’t work out. But he is right the trade was not the reason the Celtics lost to the Heat, at least not that alone.

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Marreese Speights opts out of Clippers contract

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The Clippers are unraveling.

Of course, whether they can re-sign Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the big questions. But they also must deal with smaller matters in free agency – like Marreese Speights.

Speights will opt out, his agent tweeted:

The Clippers will hold Speights’ Non-Bird Rights (technically a form of Bird Rights), allowing them to give him a starting salary up to $2,540,346 without using cap space or the mid-level exception.

The 29-year-old Speights, a stretch five who takes charges, fits the modern NBA. He could probably get more if he seeks it.

The Clippers won’t have cap space unless they lose Paul and Griffin, and at that point, re-signing a veteran like Speights is of little use. So, it would likely require the taxpayer mid-level exception or Speights taking a discount to keep him.

Luc Mbah a Moute can and likely will also opt out, and he’ll fall in the same Non-Bird situation. The Clippers would likely prioritize their mid-level exception for him – if it’s enough for either player.

Keeping Paul and Griffin is of the utmost importance, but that’s not the Clippers’ only challenge. Even if they keep those two stars, assembling even a decent supporting cast will difficult. Possibly losing J.J. Redick is the main issue there, but handling Speights’ and Mbah a Moute’s roster spots will also be pivotal.

Warriors struggle to get Zaza Pachulia’s 2017 NBA Finals hat on his big head (video)

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Zaza Pachulia became the villain of the Western Conference finals when he injured Kawhi Leonard and torpedoed the Spurs chances of upsetting the Warriors.

But his teammates stood by him – then shared this fun moment with him after Golden State won the West.

Reporter asks Spanish-speaking Manu Ginobili whether he just announced retirement (video)

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Manu Ginobili received an emotional sendoff in the Spurs’ season-ending – and maybe Ginobili’s career-ending – loss to the Warriors last night.

The postgame press conference featured a lighthearted moment when, after the Argentinian guard answered a couple questions in Spanish, an American reporter – not wanting to miss big news – asked whether Ginobili had just announced his retirement.

No, Ginobili assured the reporter. He says he plans to take a few weeks to consider his options.

Warriors make most dominant playoff run ever to NBA Finals

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Moses Malone famously predicted the 76ers team would go “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” in the 1983 playoffs, sweeping all three rounds in four games. Philadelphia didn’t quite do it – sweeping the Knicks, beating the Bucks in five then sweeping the Lakers for the title.

Thirty-four years later, an NBA team went “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” for the first time.

Golden State swept the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Spurs in four-game series. But with an extra playoff round, the Warriors’ 12-0 run merely gets them to the Finals.

It’s the ninth undefeated run to the Finals, third since the league adopted four playoff rounds in 1984 and first since the first round became best-of-seven. The Lakers went 11-0 in the playoffs en route to the Finals in 2001 and 1989.

By winning an extra game and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game, Golden State now claims the most dominant postseason run to the NBA Finals ever.

Here are the top paths to the Finals, with Finals results, by playoff…

Record (point difference per game in parentheses):

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Point difference per game (record in parentheses):

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This doesn’t guarantee Golden State a championship. The Cavaliers (10-1, +11.9) are on track for an elite run to the Finals themselves, and they have LeBron James.

But the Warriors put ridiculous expectations on themselves by signing Kevin Durant to join a 73-win team featuring Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. I’m unsure a Golden State title this year will be properly appreciated, but so far, the Warriors are doing all they can to clear a bar set unreasonably high.