By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Dan Shaughnessy by the numbers

Why does Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy keep saying (here and here) that the Celtics were 41-14 before the Kendrick Perkins trade? After all, they were 33-10 without him. No, I didn’t like the Perkins trade, either. But how the Celtics played while Perkins was rehabbing from knee surgery isn’t exactly relevant if the point you’re trying to make is that everything went to hell once he was traded. (Note: Italic section added for clarity.)

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  1. Mike Benedict

    I haven’t read the columns, Dan, but based on what you wrote, both Washburn and Shaughnessy are correct in terms of the W/L records. The Celtics were 33-10 before Perkins returned to the team. His first game back was Jan. 25. They then went 8-4 while he was playing. He was traded on Feb 24. Ergo, the Celtics were 41-14 before the trade.

    Given the number of games involved (43), I would think how the Celtics played without him would be completely relevant to projecting what kind of team they were.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Mike: Of course they’re both correct. Shaughnessy is being accurate but not true, since he keeps telling us everything went to hell once the Celtics traded Perkins — who didn’t even play until they’d already gone 33-10.

  2. Mike Benedict

    You are just realizing now that Shaughnessy = disingenuous?

  3. The problems with that trade were many. It’s not just a matter of looking at the numbers.

    Auerbach used to tell guys like Satch Sanders, for instance, that he’d deal with them, during contract talks, based on what he knew they contributed and not on what some stat sheet said. Like Sanders, Perkins was a much more vital cog in the machinery than Danny Ainge (or others who would tell you that the losing has nothing to do with Perkins’ absence) would have you believe. His help defense was superb. His offense was nowhere near as bad as some make it out to be (he shot near .600 for a full season, very recently, and averaged the sorts of points one might expect for a defensive presence on a team with Allen, Pierce, and Garnett.) And, anyway, his inside presence as a rebounder made up for any supposed offensive lack. Was he, as his detractors and Ainge’s apologists like to ask, the second coming of Bill Russell? Of course not. But he was tremendously important to this particular team.

    A great NBA team can be built of many things, not the least of which will sometimes be cohesiveness and chemistry. This team believed they were unbeatable when Perkins played with the other four starters. When a team believes it is unbeatable, that’s a damn nice start to them actually being so. Danny Ainge ripped the team heart out when he dealt away Perkins and the other four guys who left on the date of the trades. Their sense of invincibility was gone. That’s when they became old – in their own minds.

    And let’s not forget that it wasn’t just Perkins gone. It was a full one-third of the roster. Were any of the other four going to be legends and Hall-Of-Famers? Dountful. But asking Doc Rivers to integrate six or seven new players into the mix, with about a third of the season remaining, absolutely hamstrung him. Had he pulled this off, he not only would have deserved Coach Of The Year, but possibly Coach Of The Century.

    Meh. Enough. I get pissed even thinking about this lost opportunity. Sorry for going on and on.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Jim: All good observations. As I said, I don’t disagree with Shaughnessy so much as I object to his disingenuous use of numbers. But let me ask you this: How has Perkins been post-surgery? I’m only a casual fan, and I have no idea how well he’s doing with Oklahoma City. But my understanding is that was a devastating knee injury — about as bad as it gets. Maybe the Celtics didn’t lose a shot at the championship when Ainge traded him — maybe they lost a shot at two championships when he got hurt.

  4. Dan – He’s been playing a good serviceable C for Oklahoma, giving them pretty much what he gave the C’s. It’s interesting. Oklahoma is pretty much a perfect fit for him, as were the Celtics. OKC doesn’t care if he scores more than four or five points a game. They have Durant and Westbrook to handle the scoring load. What they needed was an inside presence, and Perk is certainly that. In addition, having Perk in the middle allowed them to send Serge Ibaka more to the outside, opening up the floor further for their offense.

    It was a hideous knee injury, but from what I’ve seen he hasn’t lost much after his rehab. And another part of this trade that ticked me off was that Perk worked his butt off to rehab strong and get back about three weeks before he was scheduled to have done so. The other guys see that sort of dedication in the gym, from a guy not playing, and then his reward is to be traded away? Ubuntu, my ass.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Jim: What bothered me was the talk that the Celtics had to trade him now because he was going to walk this summer. So what? This was obviously their last chance at a title with the Big Three. And it was ludicrous for Ainge to put his faith in Shaq given how grotesquely out of shape he was.

  5. Dan – Agreed, 100%.

  6. John Geoghegan

    The mistake they made was in thinking that they could change the roster so dramatically in mid-season. Because practice is so important, they never had time to get acclimated to each other and to operating together in the system.

    Also, Perkins was a key role player. Garnett=defense and mid-range shooting and rebounding; Allen=wing-shooter; Pierce, mid-range and going to the hole; Rondo=distribution; Perkins=clogging the lane and toughness. Don’t go simply by stats.

  7. Mike Benedict

    Speaking of Shaughnessy, it had come to my attention that he now has a mini-me on Twitter: @fakeshaughnessy

    It was only a matter of time, I suppose.

  8. Mike Benedict

    Perhaps you thought Perkins would have guarded LeBron?

    Basketball is a talent sport. Good players beat bad players, regardless of the coach’s system. I could throw lots of data at you to support all this, but I’m not going to bother. Suffice it to say, to suggest that a guy who rarely played at crunch time, could not score and had paltry rebounding per minute stats was the difference as to whether the Celtics could beat a more talented and younger/healthier team is wrong.

  9. Christian Avard

    I don’t think this is really about Perk. It’s a bunch of things.

    The biggest mistake Danny Ainge did was put Tony Allen on the backburner. He would’ve guarded Dwayne Wade much better than Ray Allen. I also think Ray would’ve gotten more rest with Tony filling in.

    I knew they needed help in the paint but last year’s team was pretty damn good. They were really only a minute and change from winning the 2009-2010 NBA Championship. That’s pretty close.

    I think the “excrement” really hit the fan when Marquese Daniels went down with a neck injury. He was turning into a good player and he would’ve been a great back up for Paul Pierce (and also give Pierce some needed rest during this series). I think Ainge panicked when Daniels went down. Maybe I’m wrong, but I really thought the 2009-2010 Celtics were pretty good. I wouldn’t have changed much except secure the Big Three and bring back Tony Allen … maybe Eddie House too.

    Ainge doesn’t have much to work with for next year with the salary cap. Some money will free up after 2012, but next year could be dreadful.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Christian: Dreadful? Nah. They’ll have a good team that will win a lot of games but that won’t go very deep into the playoffs. Just like this year.

  10. Mike – If you really want to talk numbers, we can do that. His value was more than that, but let’s do it, anyway.

    The guy gave a solid 25 minutes a game, with about 8 rebounds during that time (2 of them off the offensive glass.) That’s hardly paltry. It would equate to 15+ (4+ offensive) in 48 minutes.

    Couldn’t score? That’s the biggest lie told in this entire deal. Sure, he’s not going to light things up from outside,but he gave you about 8 points a game during his 25 minutes, on better than 55% shooting for his entire career. He shot better than 60% twice over the course of a full season. What more do you want on a team that has scorers like Pierce, Allen, and Garnett?

    There are so many factors that stats guys are missing, though. By blowing up the team 2/3 of the way through the season, and when they were holding the #1 spot in the east, Ainge gave Doc a hideous task. He had to try and meld in 7 or 8 new players. In so doing, they dropped from #1 to #3. Keep the same core team at the time of the trade, the probability is they hold that #1 seed. If so, no Miami or Chicago until the eastern finals, and then they get them with home court advantage.

    Enough. I suspect some people will never get it. You may feel the same concerning my viewpoint. To each his own.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Jim: Let’s not forget, Ainge was also famous for throwing up mindless three-pointers with no one in position to rebound. I mean, they all do these days, but back then it was not as common, and not considered smart basketball. Still, Perkins was damaged goods, and it’s hard to imagine a better bench would have carried the Celtics past the Heat.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Jim: I’m no basketball expert, but we all saw what Miami’s Big 3 did. With a healthy Perkins, maybe the Celtics would have won one more game. Maybe.

  11. Mike Benedict

    Yes, Jim, to each his own.

  12. Well, it’s hardly worth any of us beating the same dead horse. I have my opinion concerning what happened, as well as what might have happened, I’ve expressed both here, and I’m feeling better for having vented. Thanks to you for the opportunity, and to Mike for the spirited opposition.

    We can only know what occurred in reality. The rest is a debate along the lines of whether The Flash or Superman is faster.

    I say The Flash, by the way 🙂

  13. That’s OK, Dan. Mike might come up with a batch of statistics to prove that it’s Green Lantern.

    (Ooh. I should just shut up now, shouldn’t I? Yes, I should. Sorry!)

  14. ben starr

    Perkins was never on the court during the closing minutes of games during his time here and that was the celts biggest problem in recent months. In my opinion, the issue is what they got in return. Jeff Green is a career underachiever. Who cares if Perk was going to walk if you were just getting a space filler in return.

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