Tag Archives: Kendrick Perkins

Jeff Green After “The Perkins Deal”

This article is a guest post from Michael Pina, creator of the all-everything NBA blog Shaky Ankles. His work has been featured on Hardwood Paroxysm and linked to The Point Forward, Ball Don’t Lie and True Hoop. Follow him on Twitter @ShakyAnkles.

In the Playoffs, Jeff Green will try to convince the world that Ainge made the right move.

When Jeff Green has the ball, 99 times out of 100, there’s a physical advantage. He’s faster than almost every power forward in the league — allowing his face-up game to exploit lumbering monsters with blow bys off the dribble — and bigger than most threes, opening up post play that creates passing and scoring opportunities for orbiting teammates. Defensively you would guess this to be an adverse dilemma, but you would be wrong. Green has feet that could win a dance-off and an upper body chiseled down from a block of granite.

The trade that ripped Jeff Green from the only professional team he had ever known and dropped him in Boston was the most blindsided hit fans of both teams have taken in years. (For Oklahoma City it had no precedent.) In its aftermath national pundits dubbed it “The Perkins Deal.” Never “The Jeff Green Trade..

Normally when such a transaction is made, in every sport, it’s nicknamed after The Best Player involved. I know it’s difficult and possibly pointless, but throwing context, chemistry, and timing out the window, Jeff Green is that Best Player. He’s more versatile, athletic, and technically skilled than Kendrick Perkins; he has the type of talent to be a Sixth Man of the Year winner on this Boston Celtics team, but thanks to the sheer shock and abruptness of the deadline deal, Perkins is the one who everyone talks about.

It’s all about the big guy down low: the Thunder got tougher, now Ibaka can roam the lane and block shots from the weak side — and he’s better than Green anyway! Boston lost its identity while Oklahoma City found one seems to be the deal’s theme; this shouldn’t just motivate Jeff Green, it should piss him off. Badly. It should eat away at his inner soul, it should bother him like the most insatiable middle-of-the-back itch of his life.

He’s being called soft on Boston’s sports talk radio every 15 minutes and is playing with a pre-2009 Lamar Odom-like mentality; it’s vexing for many: Danny, Doc, Perkins’ old teammates/friends, and Celtics fans. But really, the one who needs to look in the mirror and wonder why such overbearing talent isn’t being put to its natural use is Jeff Green. These games right now are important for everybody, but individually on a financial, respect and reputation/stigma based context, no one needs them more than Jeff Green.

Through his first two Playoff games with Boston, he barely blipped on New York’s radar: 12 total shots taken for 10 points (one free throw converted), three rebounds, zero assists, zero steals, and six fouls. He had a little more of a presence in Game 3, but still missed more shots than he made and picked up 5 fouls.

Green isn’t just playing with the weight of Perkins on his shoulders, he’s a free agent after this season and how he plays right now will dictate how he’s perceived for the next stage of his young career. Green needs a role. Great, we all know that. But maybe it’s a different one than Ainge had in mind. Having him defend Carmelo Anthony for the first few quarters and allowing Paul Pierce to save energy for fourth quarter offense is huge, and there’s no doubt that should both Boston and Miami advance, Green will be assigned LeBron James duty for extended stretches, but on the other end let’s see him run free. Let’s see Jeff Green turn into a 24-year-old Gerald Wallace. Let’s see him bounce around the court, throw his body at the glass, run up and down in transition and get rewarded with beautiful opportunities from Rajon Rondo. That’s the role Green should have.

People compare him with James Posey and the sixth man role he had in Boston during their 2008 title run, but Jeff Green can do so much more; he can be a liberal Posey, knocking down shots but also creating his own offense and responsibly locking down the opposition’s star so his aging teammates needn’t worry. What Posey had that Green lacks, however, is simple: Confidence.

Posey won a ring with Miami before he joined Garnett, Pierce, and Allen in Boston. He had been there done that and understood more than anyone — save Kobe Bryant — what it took to win in that 2008 championship. Green doesn’t have the slightest clue, and that’s fine. Nobody expects it from him, and it isn’t why he was brought over. What he should do, though, is play fearless, and the only thing holding him back right now is himself, which is silly because statistically he’s held his own when given an opportunity.

Danny Granger can attest to the fact that, physically, Green is a load to deal with.

According to Hoopdata.com, since coming to the Celtics, Green has the team’s highest field goal percentage from 16-23 feet with 51%.  He has a lower percentage of shots assisted from 3-9 feet than Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett. (He’s second on the team in attempts per game from that distance, behind only Garnett.) His percentage of shots assisted from 10-15 feet dropped from 62.5% in OKC to 14.3% in Boston, which is very interesting.

The Celtics are a team built on discipline and execution. They rarely go for any isolation plays apart from Paul Pierce at the end of a quarter, Kevin Garnett on the baseline, or Glen Davis on the wing. Apart from that most of their offense is dictated by their defense’s ability to create turnovers and quick points in transition or complicated flex plays carried out by Rajon Rondo’s ingenious decision making. This shows Doc Rivers’ want and need in letting Green create some production on his own.

His usage percentage actually went up since coming to Boston, along with his true shooting percentage. Mostly everything else stayed the same, with rebounding numbers going down a bit, which is probably due to Boston’s defensive style of play that mostly prioritizes backwards retreat over board crashing — although in the playoffs they should rise for Green as he’s used more as a rebounding presence.

As the regular season came to a close and Boston began to rest their starters, Jeff Green stepped his game up. He took 33 shots, shot 43% from the floor, and grabbed 23 rebounds in those last two contests. But nobody remembers February through April once the season is over. It’s what occurs in the playoffs we mount on our mental plaques.

Jeff Green has at least two weeks, but more likely a month or two, to shape his reputation into that of a valuable championship contributor. Whether he does or not is the ultimate scale tipper: Can Green cash in or check out? Will the Celtics overcome age, expectations, and injuries to win their second title in four years? Only then will his name be inscribed in history books as the headlining piece of that maligned deadline deal.

Everyone will finally recognize Jeff Green as The Best Player involved.

Eastern Conference Finals: Magically Delicious

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Making predictions, breaking down the future and saying things like “this team is done” or “this team is unbeatable” have made a lot of very talented people a lot of money and has given a lot of less talented people a very fun pastime. And in a seven-and-a-half month season, culminating in a two-week NBA Finals, it’s only natural that we look ahead, throwing out bombastic statements, defending them to the death despite their conformation being months away.

But sometimes, we need to remember that the beauty of the game is the game itself, not the conversations around it. And no matter how logical that next step seems, when the basketball is actually played, we always run the risk of getting our socks knocked off.

So allow me to officially apologize to the Boston Celtics for counting them out.

I had plenty of good reasons. The shaky bench. The old age. The effort that just wasn’t their any more. The presence of two (seemingly) far superior teams within their conference

None of it mattered.

None of it mattered because the one, biggest, baddest reason as to why the Boston Celtics were finished turned out to be untrue. For 15 months, it had seemed that Kevin Garnett would never be capable of playing at the level Boston needs to make substantial Playoff noise. And yet, against many people’s (including yours truly’s) favorite for the NBA title, Garnett finally reminded us why he deserved this place in this list , why he is an all-time great even though he was plagued by various Troy Hudsons in his starting line up, and why, when discussing a player of his caliber, you can never count him out until he finally hangs them up.

Overreaction? Tell that to Antawn Jamison. You can probably find him weeping in the corner.

Garnett looked like the KG of old, torching whoever guarded him (though, to be fair, Mike Brown could have been putting random people from the crowd on him and it wouldn’t have been as bad as guarding him with Shaq), consistently banging home that mid-range shot and showing that he is still more than good enough to orchestrate a dominant defense. Throughout the series, Garnett averaged 19 and 8 on 52% shooting – pretty similar to his regular season numbers in 2008 (18 and 9 on 54%). That is nothing near his all-world numbers from earlier in the decade, but it’s just what Boston needed — at just the right time. And that’s before factoring in his effect on defense.

As for the rest of those problems?

Tony Allen played the James Posey offensive spark/defensive stopper role, and combined with Glen Davis’ hustle and Rasheed Wallace coming back to life, the bench wasn’t a concern. Ray Allen continues to ignore the hints he gets from his odometer, Paul Pierce shook off a bad offensive start to the series and came up big in games 5 and 6, while acting as the primary defender on a certain someone whom I shall not name (he’s been named enough already, and if I eventually address his performance this series, it will be a long, thought out process, not half-heartedly thrown-out statements that take the limelight away from the teams who have earned it). And the effort? Apparently, they were just saving that for the postseason. As much as I don’t believe in flipping the switch, Boston proved that they have the championship pedigree needed to do so.

And above all, the masterful Rajon Rondo keeps on blossoming before our eyes, extending the “best PG in the world?!” discussion to, at the very least, a four-man race.

I apologize for focusing so much on the series preceding the one I should be talking about – and, yes, I’ll get to Orlando/Boston in a minute – but this can’t be reiterated enough. Because while the result of Boston’s six-game win over Cleveland was largely attributed to the fallacies of the losing squad (specifically those of a certain someone whom I still shall not name) this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Boston won this. Fair and square. And if their form from the first half of Game 1, Game 2 and Game 4 through Game 6 carries on to this series, they have a heck of a chance to make it back to the NBA Finals.

Of course, to do so, they must stop the team that has been playing the best basketball in the league for quite a while.

For months now, several voices have been ignoring the Magic, giving reasons such as “they’re not as good without Hedo” or “they rely too much on Vince Carter,” while people who actually watched the games half-groaned, half-cried: “Hedo wasn’t that good! They don’t need that much from Vince! STOP IGNORING JAMEER NELSON!!!”

Amazingly, their voices remain unheard in certain circles for reasons I cannot explain. While the Magic’s 8-0 run in the postseason so far is somewhat tarnished by the teams they met – both of which seemed quite content with playing the doormat – it still takes a very good team to capitalize on those “just-happy-to-be-here” feelings. Even though the Hawks’ second-round performance was as apathetic as they come, this was the East’s third-best team. And yet, they were obliterated completely, each and every strength nullified, each and every weakness exposed.

No, don’t let the “we just beat the number one overall seed” hype fool you: these Magic are favorites. And while this series is a whole lot closer than it seemed a few weeks ago, we must still remember that even though Boston’s defense seems to be returning to near-2008 levels, Orlando has been playing a similarly elite defense for two straight years, now — along with far superior offense. In fact, throughout this postseason, the Magic have been number one in both offensive efficiency (a ridiculous 116 points per 100 possessions, which is a full 2.8 points more than the Suns) and defensive efficiency (94.6, which is 2.7 points less than the Celtics).

Then again, these Celtics don’t really give a damn about favorites. That should give us a great match-up in and of itself — a match-up enhanced by the fact that, to my eyes, each team’s weakness is pretty ably countered by the other team’s strengths.

Boston struggles against young, athletic teams? Well, the Magic have their share of oldies, but they don’t get much more athletic than Dwight Howard. With Jameer and Jason Williams running the show, Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus and the still-athletic-when-he-wants-to Vince running the wings, and an abundance of three-point shooters trailing, this team should be able to run as much as it wants. Heck, we might even see some Brandon Bass.

The Magic’s weakest positions defensively are point guard and power forward? Well, those two positions are manned by Boston’s two best players, if the Cleveland series is any indication.

Boston has a bench full of question marks? The Magic go a legit 11 deep.

Dwight Howard’s offensive game still tends to be inconsistent (though it’s much, much better than the rep it gets)? Kendrick Perkins is the best Dwight-stopper in the league.

It goes on and on.

And there are so many x-factors. There literally isn’t a single player in the starting lineups that won’t have a crucial role in this series.

For the Celtics: Rondo will have to get to the paint, draw fouls on Dwight, create shots for his teammates, and basically carry Boston’s sometimes struggling offense through those sometimes struggly stretches, while trying to stop the scorching Nelson; Allen and Pierce will be counted on to make shots, whether by creating for themselves and trying – sorry if I sound like a broken record here – to draw fouls on Dwight (mostly Pierce) or by making spot-up outside shots (Ray); KG will need to exploit Rashard Lewis like he exploited Jamison; and Perkins? Well, Perkins is up against Dwight. Good luck with that.

For Orlando: Jameer will have to keep up his ridiculous play, breaking down the Boston defense and generally being unstopable; Vince will have to make sure Pierce doesn’t find a rhythm while fitting in to the offense, scoring when he is needed and deferring when he isn’t; Barnes will need to run through screens after Ray Allen; Lewis will have to make weakside threes and maybe even, god forbid, drive to the hoop against Garnett should he be able to force him out; and Dwight will have to stay out of foul trouble to anchor the defense, while still posing a strong enough offensive threat to shrink in the Boston defense, and maybe even getting Perkins and Garnett into some foul trouble of their own.

And those are just the starters. The series could eventually be decided by the benches or by the coaches or by the refs (hate to bring them up, but this has become an increasingly important factor with Dwight). Anything can happen. Everybody is important.

Which is why I think the Magic win.

When considering everything and anything, they just have more. They are deeper. They are younger. They are healthier. They are just as good, if not better, on defense. They are way better on offense. They have the better coach. They have home-court advantage.

The Celtics made everybody – including me – look like idiots after handing it to the Cavs. They sure could do it again. The difference is that this time, they aren’t facing a team on the brink of a mental meltdown. They are facing the defending Eastern Conference champion. They are facing a team that is playing better basketball — better than last season’s Magic and better than this season’s Celtics.

Magic in 7

LeBron’s New Crew vs. the Former Champs

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Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

This series is not.

On paper, this should be a nail biter. The teams split the regular season series. Both won their first round series in 5 games. Both teams are as healthy as they will ever be (and yes, I’m assuming that LeBron’s elbow is fine, because he’s a cyborg and cyborgs don’t feel pain). And while the Cavs are deeper, and had the far superior regular season record, they are also employing a line-up that has played less than 10 games together, including in the playoffs, and lack the championship pedigree of their green opponents. All in all, this evens out.

Until you look at the fine print.

How did Boston got those regular season wins? Well, one was on opening night, against a Cleveland squad playing it’s first game with Shaquille O’Neal in uniform after a shaky training camp, without Delonte West who was battling personal issues. Since then, Cleveland acquired Antawn Jamison, got Delonte back, got Shaq in the mix, and gained two rotation players in J.J. Hickson and Jawad Williams (though the latter might be kind of a stretch), while the Celtics regressed to .500 ball from Christmas Day onward.

The second Boston win came 10 days before the end of the season, after the Cavs clinched the league’s best record, without the aforementioned O’Neal. Cleveland basically rolled over for 3 quarters, allowing Boston to go up 22, before LeBron decided he feels like trying and instantaneously made it a close game, only to lose the game on some questionable decisions – and missed some free throws – in crunch time.

How did Cleveland get their wins?

One was a late February game, one week after Jamison joined the team, which was close for three quarters before the Cavs turned it up in the fourth (notice a trend here?) and won by 20. The other was a mid-March, Shaq-less contest, an 11 point win that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated.

“Sure,” you could say, “but how about those first round series? Boston looked much better there!”

Well, the Cavs, playing at first gear, beat a Bulls team despite the Bulls playing two or three of their best games of the season. The Celtics, with extreme motivation, beat a Miami team that consists of Dwyane Wade … and … yeah.

Not to take away from the Boston’s win against Miami – they upped the defensive intensity, and managed to convincingly win a series that many, including yours truly, predicted would be very close. But how does that help them against Cleveland? Letting Wade get his and stopping the likes of Beasley, Chalmers, Haslem and Jermaine O’Neal’s dead body is hardly the same as letting LeBron get his and stopping Jamison, Mo, Shaq and an array of three-point snipers. Besides, just letting LeBron get his could be enough to lose.

Look, I might be selling the Celtics short. I pretty much declared their title chances – for this year – over once Kevin Garnett was ruled out from last season’s playoffs, and my stance didn’t change one bit even when they started the season 23-5. And while I still believe the Celtics as presently constructed to be all but done as far as a title contender, I may be letting that opinion get the better of me.

And yet, the question remains:

When have the Celtics ever given us any indication that they are capable of beating these guys?

Even at full strength, rolling towards a title, a much stronger version of these Celtics needed 7 games and a fourth quarter outburst from P.J. Brown to put Cleveland away. And this was when Cleveland had, maybe, 10% the supporting cast, the Celtics had James Posey (whom they’ve never adequately replaced), and Kevin Garnett was still one of the best players in the league.

So yes, Rajon Rondo will probably have his way with Mo Williams, weaving his way into the paint for numerous floaters and funny looking layups, just like Derrick Rose did before him and Jameer Nelson will do after him. Ray Allen will make some big threes, Paul Pierce will still be Paul Pierce, KG will yell at all sorts of things, be them opposing point guards or stationary objects. Heck, maybe even Rasheed Wallace will get off the bench and show the Cavs that even though he already mailed in a playoff series against them last year, he’s still enough of a bonehead to do it again. You know, all the those Celticy little things we’ve come to know and love.

And after all that is said and done, LeBron will get his ridiculous stat-line, Jamison will get his 18 points without releasing the ball from above his shoulder even once, Anderson Varejao will draw 5 charges and 8 technicals, some kind of dude with an unnecessary J in his name will score a big three and follow it up with a 5 minute hand shake/rain dance, and the Celtics will go home.

I know this sounds bleak, and not very fun. But I promise you, it’s not like that. It will be a fun series. The games themselves should be fairly close – not the defensive slugfest kind of close, but the entertaining kind of close, as these teams have quite regularly produced in the past.

And don’t fool yourself into thinking that this series can’t affect the NBA title. In fact, this is the ultimate Cleveland gut check: for all of Lebron’s greatness, he hasn’t beaten a legit, top tier team in the playoffs since the Pistons in 2007. Unfair as that assessment may be, it’s on him to prove that he can hold up to that pressure. If he doesn’t against Boston, he won’t against Orlando/whoever comes out of the West.

As for the Celtics, this series can dramatically alter their future. If they somehow take this to 7, or even win (which I don’t see happening, at all, but you can never be sure in this league), then maybe they stay course, hope KG’s knee is better after yet another summer off, re-sign Ray Allen, sign another, strong mid-level bench guy (not like Sheed), and take another shot. If they lose in a blowout … well, then maybe it’s time to blow this thing up. (Fun side note: if Allen leaves in free agency, no team is a better fit for him than Cleveland. Nobody.) The whole Ubuntu, heart of a champion mentality of this squad will be put to the test here, even if it seemed like it abandoned them during the season.

And no matter what happens, whether this goes 4 or 7, we’ll get to see two very good teams doing what they do best. You can never go wrong with that. It’s just that at the end of the day, one of these teams is better than the other.

By quite a margin.

And they have Lebron.

Cavs in 5

Boston, Boredom, Rondo, Sheed, Chewbacca

As a nice little dovetail to the Celtics thing I did yesterday, I ended up joining John Karalis (who you know from this Logo Project post and The 8th Seed NBA Podcast) and That Sports Babe (who you should follow @ThatSportsBabe) on their aptly titled radio show Boston & That Sports Babe.

Here’s last night’s episode.

I come in around the 15 minute mark if you want to just jump ahead to the good stuff.

We talked about the Celtics being “bored” with the regular season, chatted with a caller about Rondo perhaps deserving some of the blame for this Boston mess (something I disagree with wholeheartedly) and John called me Chewbacca at one point. I’ll admit that the beard could probably use a trim, but c’mon.

You can catch future episodes of Boston & That Sports Babe most every Tuesday at 9:00 pm Northeast Elitist Standard Time.

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