Bob Ryan

As always, Ainge unafraid to take his shot

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By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / February 25, 2011

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They can all say it with no fear of contradiction.

That starting lineup never lost a playoff series.

They can say it now and forever because the lineup consisting of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo will not be seen again now that the Celtics have traded Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

I can hear the weeping and wailing among the faithful.

“Perk? Perk! How could they give up Perk?’’

Well, here’s how: You trade Perk if in return you get someone who is a much more accomplished basketball player and one who fills a critical need.

There is no argument here. Jeff Green is the best player of the four players involved in yesterday’s deal.

Green is 6 feet 9 inches, 235 pounds, and a born team player. Just about my only concern is that there may be a bit too much KG in him; i.e. he is so selfless that he occasionally over-passes himself out of a good shot. I can see KG and Green passing themselves into a shot-clock violation. Overall, I’d say he’s the young Antonio McDyess; something like that.

As an aside, most people are aware of the great coincidence involving Green. He was taken out of Georgetown by the Celtics with the fifth pick of the 2007 draft, the key component in the deal bringing Allen to Boston.

Once again, Danny Ainge reminds us that when the topic of the NBA’s most fearless executives is introduced into the discussion, his name tops the list. No one saw a deal of this magnitude coming. All that was asked of him when the day dawned was to produce a warm 6-6/6-7 body to gobble up minutes behind Pierce. No one would have been surprised had the result been a 10-day contract for some fringe piece of NBA flotsam and jetsam.

Nope, not Danny. He came home with a 24-year-old stud who will be of immediate aid to a team desperate for a forward while representing the long-term future once Garnett fades into black, never to be seen near an NBA arena again.

Nate Robinson? Well, thanks, little guy. We’ll always have the “Shrek and Donkey Game.’’

No, seriously, with Nate there wasn’t a shred of false advertising. The Celtics knew exactly what they were getting, and he gave them all he could, given his profound limitations as a 5-9 shooting guard. He’s only 24, and my guess is he will have a reasonably long NBA career bouncing from team to team as coaches hope they can tap into that occasional offensive explosiveness.

But it’s always going to be caveat emptor. Don’t take him if you’re looking for a starter. Don’t take him if you think he’s a point guard. And don’t take him if you are looking for someone to count on more than once every four or five games.

Doc Rivers said following the Shrek and Donkey Game (Game 4 of the Finals, actually) that he had told Nate he would win a game for the Celtics before the 2010 playoffs were over. He came through, and someday another coach will be a similar beneficiary. Hey, he might do the Celtics a favor by beating the Lakers again this year.

Before we get to the subject of Perkins, just remember there never was a guarantee the Celtics were going to win it all this season. True, they joined Miami, Orlando, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, and San Antonio as prime contenders, but no one could truthfully say any more than that. So it’s not as if Ainge has sabotaged anything. What he’s done is take a risk.

By trading Perkins, Ainge is placing the team’s playoff destiny in the hands (not to mention back, knees, thighs, calves, elbows, neck, etc.) of Shaquille O’Neal. There is no turning back. Shaq must remain healthy for the playoffs. If he doesn’t, Ainge is going to hear about it.

As for Perk himself, there will be no Perk bashing here. He is a classic young/old pro, a determined, hard-working 26-year-old man who came to the Celtics as the proverbial unpolished gem out of Clifton Ozen High School in Beaumont, Texas, nearly eight years ago and who did everything that was ever asked of him, and a whole lot more, to become the presence on an NBA floor he is today.

Perhaps the Celtics thought he had reached his ceiling. I don’t know. Perhaps his next contract negotiations were going to be an issue. I don’t know. Perhaps there was no yeah-but whatsoever, only the desire to add a major 24-year-old asset such as Jeff Green to the roster. Again, I don’t know.

I do know it’s risky for the team ranked 29th in rebounds per game to shed itself of one of its two best rebounders. That said, Kevin Durant will like coming off Perk’s picks; I can promise you that.

Nenad Krstic is another player sent over by Central Casting. In this case, he comes from the stash labeled “European Big Man.’’

He’s a 27-year-old, 7-foot, 240-pound Serb who favors — stop me if you’ve heard this before — 18-foot jump shots. He is a career 10.1 points per game scorer who shoots nearly 50 percent from the floor. Teamed with a healthy Shaq, he could give the Celtics a quite complementary center duo.

I’m well aware most fans aren’t going to like this trade, and they’ll like it a whole lot less if and when Shaq comes up with his first playoff injury. But they’re going to wind up singing the praises of Jeff Green.

The moral of the story is that there is no more exciting thing to be than the fan of a Danny Ainge-run basketball team on either draft day or trade deadline day. I’m wondering what fans of other teams do for adventure.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on He can be reached at

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