Celtics trade

Did Danny Ainge cost the Celtics this championship? No.

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It’s an obvious and easy target. A changing point in the Celtics season.

Back at the start of February, the Celtics were 37-11, the top seed in the East, three games ahead of Miami, three-and-a-half ahead of the Chicago Bulls. They were title contenders. They had gotten Kendrick Perkins back in the lineup and Shaquille O’Neal had just stepped out with a little hip issue but he was going to be back in a week or so.

Then of Feb. 24, Celtics GM Danny Ainge shocked everyone by changing the Celtics core, trading center Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City (along with Nate Robinson) for reserve forward Jeff Green.

The Celtics finished the third seed in the East. They never got Shaq back (not in a meaningful way) and ended up bounced in the second round of the playoffs. It felt like they were never the same after the trade.

Did Danny Ainge do that? Did the Kendrick Perkins trade change the Celtics into also-rans? There are Celtics fans out there calling for Danny Ainge’s head over this move and what they perceive it costs the Celtics.

Those people are wrong. This isn’t on Ainge.

Kendrick Perkins would not have changed this series.

Perkins brings some defense to the table — he can defend traditional big men very well in the post (if you can step away from the basket, like Zach Randolph, it’s a different story). He’s also makes good help rotations and can clog the paint, slowing penetration.

He provides no offense inside — and that is what the Celtics missed most this series. They missed the Shaq from the first half of this season (who Ainge and Rivers and the Celtics doctors expected would be back). They needed a threat inside that balanced out the offense outside. They needed to punish the Heat for playing Joel Anthony. The Celtics offense hummed when Shaq was scoring (or was a threat to score) in the paint, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were getting better looks. Rajon Rondo had more room to operate.

Perkins fixes none of that.

What’s more, the small lineup the Heat had success with would have forced Doc Rivers to bench Perkins for the key stretches of games anyway. The only way to offset that small lineup was a big man who could score in the paint to make them pay for it, and Perkins does not do that.

Maybe he makes some hard fouls on penetration, but that is not slowing the attack of Dwyane Wade or LeBron James. And both of them did serious damage with jump shots anyway.

Besides, when the trade went down we kept hearing about how Jeff Green was the kind of athletic wing player the Celtics really needed off the bench, especially after Marquis Daniels went down. (By the way, what you saw with Jeff Green this season is what you get, don’t expect a leap forward. Ask Thunder fans about it.)

I said at the time I didn’t like the Perkins trade, and you can wonder ho the team would be different with him, but it is not what cost the Celtics this series. This is not all on Ainge.

Perkins exit leaves Boston locker room in tears

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The Boston locker room is tight.

This isn’t your average NBA locker room, with guys who get along okay, but after the practices they all head separate directions with their posses. Boston was different. Call it Ubuntu, call it a bond formed by winning a title, call it whatever you want, it was real.

And the trade of Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City Thunder hit the locker room hard, especially the emotional Perkins himself, said A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England.

“There was a lot of crying, lot of hugging going on,” said Perkins. “And a lot of it was me.”

“It’s not even about a teammate. It felt like you lost a family member today,” (Kevin) Garnett said. “Tough day.”

“The only thing is, you hope that Danny (Ainge) and Doc (Rivers) know what they’re doing,” (Paul) Pierce said. “We trust in them. It is what it is. We can’t use any excuses, cry over spilled milk. Hopefully the guys we have coming in here and understand what we’re trying to do, is championship goals.”

Boston is going to get over the loss of Perkins in the locker room. Whether they get over the loss of him on the court — people we heard from in Miami and Chicago were happy to have Perkins in the Western Conference — we won’t know until May and June. If there is crying in the locker room after a series loss then Ainge will certainly hear about it.