Danny Ainge Believes the Celtics Need to Get Younger at Center, Still Doesn’t Regret Kendrick Perkins TradeMay 16, 2011 – 6:15 am by Steven Cuce
The fact of the matter is that the Boston Celtics are finally showing their age. The glory days of Beantown’s “Big Three,” may indeed finally be behind them. The Celtics can still get valuable play from the likes of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, all of whom are under contract next year, but the age game doesn’t escape any athlete or any team, even those that have been there and done that.
Boston showed some chinks in the armor against the New York Knicks in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and it had nothing to do with being rusty or not hitting on all cylinders. The Celtics may have made a lapse in judgement by trading Kendrick Perkins, who was the heart-and-soul, maybe even the unsung hero of this squad. Boston never seemed to recapture the dominance they had down low in the paint over the last few years after Perkins was shipped to Oklahoma City. The lack of stout play down low from the center position was clearly lacking against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Danny Ainge can talk about the bright future of Jeff Green, and point the finger at injuries being an issue, but the Celtics lost a piece of their championship swagger back in late February.
Danny Ainge joined The Big Show on WEEI in Boston to discuss the future of the “Big Three” in Boston, whether there’s any circumstances in which he’d be willing to trade Rajon Rondo, his thoughts on the Kendrick Perkins trades now that he’s seen how it materialized for this year’s playoff run, his assessment of Jeff Green’s play this year and future role with the team, the future of Jermaine O’Neal in Boston and the Celtics play at the center position during the playoffs.
What is the future of the “Big Three” in Boston? Do you think they still have enough?
“First of all I think that these last four years have been very enjoyable with this group and probably even at this stage this year was better then I thought four years ago. These guys are real professionals, KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce] and Ray [Allen], true Hall of Fame Players, who take care of their bodies. I still think there’s a lot of basketball left in them, although knowing Father Time never loses. I think their being able to carry a team night in and night out days might be over, but their ability to be contributors to a very good basketball team is still there. I think they have some left in them, but we need some guys to surround them with better players if we have any opportunity of winning a championship next year.”
Would you be willing to trade Rajon Rondo?
“Yeah, probably not. I can never say never, but that’s not our plan right now. Absolutely not.”
What is your take on the Kendrick Perkins trade now? What are your thoughts on Jeff Green?
“Here’s what I would say about that. I would say I don’t believe that the trade was the reason why we are done today. I think our offense failed us in the last few games. We weren’t able to score. Our defense was terrific. We were missing shots 10 feet from the pin, and couldn’t make a birdie putt and they are knocking them in from the sand trap. Our offense, we had good shots from Ray, from Paul, from Delonte [West], from Jeff, from KG. Our best offensive players had good looks at the basket. We went into a slump in the last four minutes of the game, very quality looks, a couple of unforced turnovers. Whatever the reason may be I don’t believe…I believe the injuries especially to Rajon and then the fact that Delonte was far less then 100%, although he played well. I think those were more factors to our lack of execution down the stretch of games in the last couple of games. Kendrick wasn’t someone who really helped our offense. He has never been that type of player. He’s been a player that’s helped our defense. Our defense was not the problem. That was the first thing in my opinion. I think Jeff Green showed in the time he was called upon especially when he was needed to play more minutes he played very well and was very productive. As a matter of fact he was our most efficient offensive player throughout the playoffs on points per possession. Jeff played a limited role. I think a lot of people expected maybe to play a greater role, but when you’re playing behind KG, Ray, and Paul there’s not a lot of opportunities and when you are on the court sometimes…we found he played really well when there were two or three starters on the court with him. He played worse with all of our bench players on the court, which I think is understandable. I think at same time not having Shaq. We were 20-4 with Shaq when he played more than 21 minutes and was healthy this year. We talked a bunch about how our offense was better than its ever been when Shaq was healthy earlier in the year. We did hope that would be the case. Jermaine O’Neal did live up to his end of the bargain. Jermaine did create the defense. Our defense was better with Jermaine on the court, but Jermaine was playing with a bad back and playing with a bad left wrist that would require surgery. From that regard Glen [Davis] didn’t play as well as he had been playing in the last month of the season. We were relying on him more because he was really stepping it up and over the last year and half he had been playing well and we thought he was on track and he provided some minutes at that center position. So having said the fact that I would do it again I don’t think that’s the reason we lost. You can’t say the trade was a success, but where we sit today we’re in a better position having done that. I know a lot of people will blame the Perkins trade for our lack of success. I’m OK with that. I take responsibility for that. There’s a legitimate argument to be made. I don’t buy into Perkins’ screening ability or Rondo’s struggles, but could he have helped our defense and help us get some more stops? There’s a legitimate argument there to be made, but it’s our offense that let us down pretty consistently and that was frustrating.”
What is Jermaine O’Neal’s future with this team?
“I don’t know that. I’m not sure. I’m not sure where Jermaine’s heart and head are at right now. It’s been a long year for him with his health, but he was more healthy at the end. He had sort of a fluky injury with the wrist. He finally got the knee healthy and had some balance and energy. He hurt that left wrist. That left wrist is huge for Jermaine because he’s basically a left-handed finisher around the rim even though he shoots right-handed almost all his dunks and finishes are with his left. He just wasn’t able to grip the ball like he normally could. I don’t know where Jermaine’s head is. I talked to Jermaine today, but I think he’ll take some time and figure out what he wants to do in the future.”
What is your analysis of how the Celtics played down low with the bigs in the Heat series?
“The center position was just a disaster when Perkins comes back. He comes back from an ACL. He’s not moving. He’s really not blocking shots like he use to do or moving like he use to do and then he gets a sprained MCL on other knee, so he’s going to have to play the rest of the year with two knee braces. The center position all year long we were wondering from game-to-game who was going to be able to play even though you can only have fifteen players on your roster. We have five centers. That was a struggle all year. We can’t afford to do that again. We need depth at that position, and we need to get younger. No question.”