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Ian Thomsen: After C’s moves, ‘not sure who they are now’

Sports Illustrated senior writer Ian Thomsen joined the midday show Friday with guest hosts John Rooke and Kirk Minihane to talk about the Celtics [1]‘ moves this week, mainly the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins [2] and Nate Robinson [3] to the Thunder for Jeff Green [4] and Nenad Krstic [5].

Thomsen said the Celtics forged an identity this season as a big physical team, following their NBA finals [6] loss to the Lakers last June. Now, the identity has changed.

“First of all, I was just wondering who the Celtics are now?” Thomsen said of his initial reaction to the trade. “Before they signed [Shaquille O’Neal [7]] last summer, I was wondering who they were. Because they were outrebounded in the finals, the Lakers front line looked too big for them, even when Perkins was playing. But then when they got Shaq, and you thought about Shaq and Perkins as the front line, now you thought that they were going to have an edge to them, they were going to be able to play down low, they’d always have a big man in there, for 48 minutes, potentially.

“And now again, I’m just not sure who they are now, what the edge is. There are things that they can no longer take for granted: that they can guard Dwight Howard [8] one on one, that they’re going to throw a lot of size at the Lakers ‘€” like a big offensive line that creates room for [Rajon] Rondo and all the other guys.

“So, it’s just now going to be interesting to see what’s going to be the new identity of the team. Because no matter what they do, if they get Troy Murphy [9] or anybody else, it won’t be able to replicate what they had in Perkins. And Shaq just won’t be able to give them enough minutes, even if he’s healthy ‘€” 25, 28, 30 minutes, maybe.”

Looking at matchups against the C’s main competition, such as LeBron James [10]‘ Heat, Thomsen said you can evaluate it a couple of ways.

“It’s like a chicken-or-egg thing,” he said. “Do you respond to matchups of other teams or do you create matchups of your own that they can’t deal with? So now, against Miami, was one reason Boston had an edge over Miami this year because of guys like Kendrick Perkins and the physical edge that they clearly have over Miami? So, you can say, OK, you don’t need to worry about Miami’s big men, so you can afford to get rid of Kendrick Perkins. But in letting go of him, are you letting go of your inherent advantage over them. And now are you sort of playing their game as opposed to making them play your game. They’re less of an imposing team without Perkins. They’re playing more to Miami’s style.

“On the other hand, Jeff Green is huge against LeBron. Because the Celtics knew they couldn’t win without a real backup 3 to help [Paul] Pierce against LeBron, to help against Kobe [Bryant], some of these other big guys on the wings. And now they have that. Jeff Green is going to come off the bench, and LeBron is going to know that for the 43 or 44 minutes he’s playing every playoff game this spring, he’s going to have somebody decent guarding him.”

As for moves the C’s are likely to make in the next few days, Thomsen said he saw Danny Ainge give an interview on television Thursday night, and “he basically, without using Troy Murphy’s name, he described Troy Murphy. So, obviously, they’re confident about getting him.”

Added Thomsen: “If they do get Troy Murphy, it’s an exceptionally deep team with a lot of different options. But we all know that in the playoffs, it’s that hard edge that overcomes everything. It’s playing hard and playing physically and just fighting that often makes the difference. We’ll have to see how this Celtics team responds in that category.”

One move Thomsen does not expect is a return of Rasheed Wallace [11]. “I just don’t see it,” Thomsen said. “Because he wasn’t in shape last year. If he had been in shape, it might have made a big difference. It was always known that Rasheed had so much respect for Kevin Garnett [12]. And now he’s in the same locker room with him, seeing how Garnett prepares every day and the other guys prepare, and it didn’t rub off on him. He didn’t make that transition that older players have to make to get in shape. So, if he wasn’t getting in shape last year, how can he possibly be in shape now? So, I just don’t see that.”

Looking to the future, Thomsen said the Celtics might have to choose between Green and Glen Davis [13] when both players’ contracts expire after this season.

Said Thomsen: “Does Jeff Green mean that they’re not going to be committed to Big Baby? Is Jeff Green going to be the guy that comes off the bench and tries to do some of the things that Big Baby does? The one difference I’d say is Jeff Green is more athletic and can do other things, can go out to the 3-point line. But Big Baby can play some backup center, and I don’t see Jeff Green doing that.”