Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Monday that the biggest fallout from the highly criticized mid-February trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder was the sudden lack of continuity between the new players and, that if he could go back, he would have waited until the end of the season to make the trade instead.
"I would wait until after the year was over. I'll put it that way," Rivers told Boston sports radio WEEI (850 AM). "I do think Jeff Green has a chance to be a starter for us in the future and a hell of a basketball player, and [Nenad] Krstic can help, but making that trade at the time we made that trade, that made it very tough for us. And not only that, we added other pieces as well that we tried to fit in, so it was just a lot of moving parts to a team that the advantage that we had was that we had continuity, everybody else was new. Chicago was new and the Heat were new. They couldn't fall back on what we could fall back on with our starting five, and once we made that trade, we took that advantage away."
In the February deal, Boston obtained Green, Krstic, and a future first-round pick in exchange for Perkins and Nate Robinson.
While there was speculation that removing Perkins hindered the team's chemistry, Rivers suggested it was the on-the-court familiarity that hurt the Celtics the most. While the successful starting lineup of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Perkins had been intact for the majority of the last four seasons, Perkins' departure had a trickle-down effect, eventually affecting the club's offense more than Rivers and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge originally anticipated.
"Well, it was more not that the trust went away, the know-how went away, the continuity went away," Rivers said. "That's what the trade affected more than anything. Obviously [Perkins] was great to our team and all of that, but it was more that you had new guys playing different positions and you had a floor guy who could literally reach back into a playbook and throw out something that was three or four years old and they all knew it, when Perk was there. When you lose Perk, you take that one guy out of that starting lineup. Now there's the fifth guy who doesn't know your offense three years ago. He only knows what he knows since he's been there, and that limited our group. With Rondo, because the way teams guard him, you need a massive playbook and that took more away from it than we thought."
Rivers later suggested that the instant chemistry that developed between Shaquille O'Neal and the Celtics' other four usual starters gave the team the confidence it needed to move Perkins, and it did so under the assumption that O'Neal's right Achilles and calf injuries would heal in a matter of weeks, as opposed to lingering for months and eventually allowing O'Neal to play just 12 minutes in the postseason.
"We were [19-3] when [Shaq] played 20-plus minutes, so that gave us the confidence to do it," Rivers said. "When we made the trade, Shaq's injury looked minor, it really did. Everyone, from the doctors to the trainers, to Shaq -- we thought it was like he'd be out four or five days or a week, or two weeks. We obviously never knew that it would take on the life that it did, and obviously that took away a lot from us. Not having him for 25 minutes a night at full speed, it hurt more than just him obviously, and our team. I thought it affected Rondo as well, because he wasn't allowed to do some of the things that we could have done with him."
Greg Payne is a student intern for ESPNBoston.com.