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Rajon Rondo and his Celtics teammates let the Kendrick Perkins trade get into their heads

07.26.11 at 1:27 pm ET
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Time often puts things into proper perspective.

In the weeks following the Kendrick Perkins trade in late February, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge dismissed the notion that any professional athlete would let the trade of a friend off the court affect his play between the lines.

Five months later, Rajon Rondo admitted to Yahoo! Sports that The Trade influenced the team “more than it should have” — and that was a mistake. Here’s what the C’s point guard said Tuesday of the deal that sent Perkins along with Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic:

‘€œIt wasn’€™t like the man passed away or something. I think we put too much emphasis on it. It’€™s a business. He got traded. He’€™s very happy where he’€™s at. We still talk and I’€™m always going to have his back. It shouldn’€™t have affected us the way it affected us.’€

Of course, if you remember the fifth episode of NBA Entertainment’s “The Association: Boston Celtics,” which aired soon after the Feb. 24 trade, Rondo sang a different tune at the time:

‘€œA lot of people say it’€™s a business, but that’€™s personal — losing one of your best friends. Perk and I were really close. On the road, we were together every day, as far as going out to eat, going out to the mall, just little things. I don’€™t have that right now, and it’€™s tough to deal with. ‘€¦ It’€™s kind of different now, especially once you go on the road. It’€™s a little different. You don’€™t hang out with the same guy you usually hang out with. It’€™s hard losing a friend. Nobody died, but ‘€¦ especially with the starting five, we had a pretty good core, a pretty good group.’€

Obviously, the C’s 11-11 record in the final 22 regular-season games and the following splits from Rondo in the month of March suggest that their friend’s departure cost the team regular-season victories:

When Perkins turned down the C’s maximum possible offer of four years and $22 million and then signed a four-year, $34.8 million extension five days after joining the Thunder, we knew for sure he was never going to be seen in green after the 2010-11 NBA season regardless of The Trade. And when Perkins averaged just 4.5 points and 6.1 rebounds in 28 playoff minutes a night for the Thunder, it became extremely difficult for any opponent of The Trade to argue his presence would have made the difference against the Heat.

It’s no wonder the Celtics had so much trouble incorporating Green (and Krstic) into the team’s offensive and defensive schemes. When players — including the point guard — are sulking about the loss of their friend, that doesn’t exactly make the best welcoming committee for incoming teammates.

Maybe by initiating Green into their Ubuntu fraternity earlier the Celtics would have won a few more regular-season games, captured the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed, coasted into the conference finals and made a more formidable opponent for the Heat and Mavericks. Instead, Green often looked lost on the court, in large part because the Big Four made him feel like an outsider.

Does Ainge deserve some of the blame for underestimating the emotional impact the Perkins deal would have on his team’s locker room? Sure. But don’t the players deserve a bigger piece of the blame pie for lacking the professionalism to deal with The Trade? Rondo seems to think so.

Yup, time often puts things into proper perspective.

***

In addition to his comments about Perkins, Rondo opined on a number of subjects in his interview with Yahoo! Sports. Here are the rest of the highlights from that candid discussion:

  • On the future: ‘€œWe got five people under contract, right? [It’s actually six] But I think we got five good people under contract, through. We’€™ll form a team again. I think we’€™ll be fine as a team and we’€™ll be fine in the future. That’€™s the plan.’€
  • On Glen Davis: ‘€œI’€™d like to play with Baby. But Baby is going to do what’€™s best for Baby.’€
  • On Doc Rivers: ‘€œDoc’€™s proven with the players that we have that he will have a winning record. But most of all, he’€™s never going to settle. We always want to win a championship. That’€™s the only goal we have as a team and that’€™s his mindset. When you talk to him, he believes we have the talent and the ability to win a championship. That’€™s our standard. He holds us accountable.’€
  • On title chances: ‘€œThey said we were done two years ago. We could care less about that. We could care less about people saying we are done.’€

Great stuff from Marc J. Spears on Rondo, who isn’t exactly the most forthcoming guy on the C’s roster. My one gripe: How do you have a lengthy interview with Rondo this offseason without even mentioning the elbow injury he suffered in that Heat series?

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo
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