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Can Troy Murphy fill that Kendrick Perkins-shaped void for the Celtics?

Last week’s trade between the Boston Celtics and the Oklahoma City Thunder, which saw Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson go to OKC in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic, was a big shock to everyone.

I’ll admit it, I wasn’t a fan of this trade. Perkins is one of the best big defenders in the NBA and can cope with the likes of Dwight Howard on his own. Especially at a time when the Celtics are leading the East and primed for a title run.

The Thunder definitely got better, there’s no doubt about that, as they got the big man they have coveted for so long in Perkins. The Celtics? Not so much.

I can understand that the Celtics and Danny Ainge didn’t want to have to pay Perkins in the summer, as he was going to become an unrestricted free agent (the Thunder signed Perkins to a four-year, $34.5 million deal this week), and if he had a good playoff series, Perkins could be looking at getting $10 million a year (which is a lot for a center with no offensive game) and have left for nothing anyway.

The Celtics got Jeff Green, who can fill in for Paul Pierce at small forward and will provide some scoring and energy off the bench. Green is averaging 18 minutes a night since the trade, getting you 6 ppg, and is a building block for the Celtics, along with Rondo, when the “Big Three” of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retire.

The Celtics signed Troy Murphy yesterday after agreeing a buyout with Golden State Warriors, on a one year deal. The 6 foot 10’ forward will provide cover for KG and is another big body in the paint against the likes of the Lakers.

Is Murphy a good replacement for Perkins? He won’t provide the toughness and defence of Perkins, he’s basically a short-term rental for the Celtics. Murphy will be a good enough buy if the likes of Shaq can stay healthy and Jermaine O’Neal find form and remember he used to play at an All-Star level.

The Celtics are still strong and, if healthy, I can see them coming out of the East, I just think it would have been beneficial to keep the roster intact. Because if the Celtics don’t win it all in June, then the “What If’s” will certainly be coming.

Shaq’s arrival gives Celtics one last shot at glory

It’s finally happened – Shaquille O’Neal is no longer stuck in the free agent wilderness and has signed with the Boston Celtics on a one or two year deal (depending on where you read), believed to be around the $1.4 million mark annually and joining a veteran team consisting of KG, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, new arrival Jermaine O’Neal and youngsters like Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins.

Shaq has reportedly agreed to coming of the bench in Boston, backing up Jermaine O’Neal at center until Perkins returns from his ACL injury he sustained in the Finals defeat by the Lakers. Shaq said all summer that he wanted to move a contender this summer to chase a fifth championship and put him on the same level as former arch-nemesis and teammate Kobe Bryant. But after unceremonious and bitter exits from the Heat, Lakers and Magic in the past, the Spurs not wanting to get older and the Hawks preferring Jason Collins (???), Shaq was running out of options.

So what does a team that is already aging quickly want with a 38 year old former superstar with an ego as big as his former talent? Firstly, Celtics GM Danny Ainge and those in the front office realise that this year is possibly the last chance for the current crop to win a championship in Boston. KG is a shadow of his former self and there are concerns surrounding his dodgy knees, Ray Allen has become increasingly inconsistent, Paul Pierce is the same Paul Pierce and JO was only signed as a short-term replacement for the injured Perkins.

Adding Shaq to that veteran core adds more toughness and size to Boston’s frontcourt. A frontline with a mixture of KG, Shaq, JO, Perk and Glen Davis could match up with any team in the NBA. They may not have the skill and quickness that the Lakers trio of Gasol, Bynum and Odom possess but they will be able to dominate teams like the Bulls, the Magic and the Heat with their size. Even Shaq at his age can get buckets against the likes of Joel Anthony, Big Z or whatever ring-chasing veteran the Heat wheel out at center.

What I’m saying is that Shaq going to B-Town is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Celtics. If Shaq is willing to come off the bench, won’t interfere with team chemistry and play a role, then O’Neal may get that elusive fifth ring he so desires. If it doesn’t happen, then this season will likely be the last hurrah for a Celtics team that will likely start over and rebuild when KG and Ray Allen’s deals expire in two years time.

The end of Boston’s Big Three?

A triple-threat of games against rival title contenders in the same week, how many of those games would you expect the Boston Celtics to win? None was the answer, as the Celtics dropped three straight to the Lakers, Magic and Hawks and came away with nothing but hurt pride.

Shaun Powell summed it up in his NBA.com column, asking whether Boston’s “Big Three” were done. I would have to agree. Boston’s blockbuster trades in 2007 transformed the fortunes of the franchise, acquiring Ray Allen from Seattle for Delonte West, Wally Sczerbiak and Jeff Green, and then an 8 player trade that brought Kevin Garnett from Minesotta. The Big Three, supported by young point guard Rajon Rondo, fulfilled expectations and won an NBA championship in 2008. Powell says:

“It was an intoxicating blend of Russell-like intimidation (KG), buttery outside shooting (Allen) and old-fashioned Celtic pride (Pierce) that carried the Celtics in 2008 and threatened to keep a choke hold on the East, if not the league, until LeBron James and/or Kobe Bryant got help.

But is that it for the Celtics? Is the KG-Pierce-Allen combination done after one championship? The problem is that injuries and age have taken their toll on the Celtics. Garnett is an old 34, Pierce is 32 and Ray is 33. Whilst they still have three players on the All-Star team this year (Pierce, KG and Rondo), you could argue only Rondo deserved the honour, with KG and Pierce only chosen because of their reputations and the weakness in the East’s roster. The Celtics are banged up, KG’s knees are a permanent issue, having missed all of the second half of the season last year and then three weeks of this season with a hyperextended right knee; Ray Allen’s game is declining and Paul Pierce, while still producing, cannot carry the team by himself. 

To show how far the “Big Three” have regressed, here are their scoring averages this season, compared to when they won it all in 2007/08:

                                                          2007/08                                                                      2009/10

Kevin Garnett                  18.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg,  3.4 apg                                       14.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.6 apg   

Paul Pierce                         19.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.5 apg                                         18.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.4 apg

Ray Allen                             17.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.1 apg                                         15.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.8 apg

This shows that KG, Ray and Pierce have all declined. KG in particular is averaging near career-lows this season. The acquisition of Rasheed Wallace has been a disaster, with Sheed more interested in committing technical fouls and jacking up bad threes than contributing to the team’s offence. The Celtics have been carried by the form of Rondo this season: who, despite not being able to hit a jump shot, is a constant triple-double threat and is averaging 14 points and 9 assists this season.

Don’t get me wrong: if the Celtics are healthy, they can beat any team in the League. I just don’t think they will be. And with Ray Allen’s  contract expiring in the summer, the Celtics won’t pay anything near the $20 million he is earning this season. Yahoo! sports have reported that the Celtics could trade Allen to the Sacramento Kings for Kevin Martin and an expiring contract (reported to be Andres Nocioni), which even though K-Mart is not as good a shooter as Ray, would make the Celtics younger and help that rebuilding process when they lose KG and Pierce, and have to build around Rondo in the future.