The Kendrick Perkins trade (can we sneak Jeff Green’s name in there, as the counter-weight?) didn’t have the star power of Melo to the Knicks, or Deron Williams to the Nets.But between its impact on the respective futures of the Celtics and Thunder, and the implications it could have for this year’s playoffs, it may be more important.
It’s also notable for just how much emotion was bound up in it, on both sides. Somehow, no one’s bothered by any crying that may have taken place because of it.
But here’s the secret: the emotionally-charged nature of this deal didn’t just show that players like each other. It showed, rather, that having players like each other, a lot, can mean great things for a franchise. Take, for instance, these quotes from Doc Rivers, on his initial misgivings about moving the nine-year veteran. From ESPN.com:
[Rivers] then had to say goodbye to a player he had, he said, come to regard as a son.
“It was the most difficult thing I have had to do since I’ve been in the league,” Rivers said. “It was like sending one of your kids [away]. It can be very hard to separate the basketball from the personal and this one was definitely that for me. Perk had great spirit. He had the intangibles you look for. We all decided to make the trade, but, for me, it hurt. It hurt a lot.”
A distraction? Maybe. But think about the things that matter on a basketball court: trust, communication, chemistry, and respect. That also goes for the relationship between players and coaches. You can argue that Rivers seeing Perkins as a surrogate son is an inconvenience, and bad for business. But in the science version of chemistry, the strongest bonds contain the most energy, can stand up the best to external pressures, and lead to pure catharsis when they’re pried apart.
It’s a gamble, sure, in that sometimes a trade has to happen. But the Celtics have won a title and made the Finals,with this current team; youngsters grow into stars, and older guys don’t get lazy. The Thunder are way ahead of schedule, as far as rebuilding from scratch into a contender is concerned. And that was before they got Perkins. Sometimes, business steps in and disrupts this band of brothers vibe. But it’s a mistake to think that in basketball, we can, or should, separate the business from the personal. The rewards far outstrip its risks.
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