Sports Illustrated senior writer Ian Thomsen joined the midday show Friday with guest hosts John Rooke and Kirk Minihane to talk about the Celtics‘ moves this week, mainly the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.
Thomsen said the Celtics forged an identity this season as a big physical team, following their NBA finals 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] 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 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 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‘ 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.”