March 2, 2011 by Jeffrey A. Lambert
As I sit here watching the Celtics bask in the Suns, my mind is once again envisioning banner #18 hanging from the rafters of the Garden. It’s been over a week since my brain had entertained that thought, probably convinced that it had slipped into Kendrick Perkin’s coat pocket as he boarded a plane with Nate Robinson for Oklahoma City.
I admit I was one of the first Celtics fans to run to the store to pick up a carton of eggs and search for the Ainge residence on Google Maps. I hated the OKC trade. How could Danny trade Kendrick Perkins, our most physical big man under age 38? Was it not the catch phrase after our NBA Finals loss to the Lakers last year that “If we had Perk, we would have won”? How could trading him for a small forward and a defensively challenged center make any sense? It does a little more now.
After trading Perkins, the only thing I could focus on was the fact that our front court was now wholly dependent on the O’Neals to lead the Celtics through “Giants Row” in the playoffs: Horford, Howard, Bosh, and Gasol & Bynum.
Shaq’s physical dominance is not a question, his durability is. Jermaine O’Neal’s defensive ability isn’t a question either…oh wait, it is. Considering J.O. is even alive at this point, the Celtics front court consists of Garnett and the Big Shamrock, backed up by Glen Davis and Nenad Krstic, with Jermaine providing support off the bench at either position. That low post squad ain’t gonna cut it come playoff time.
Enter Troy Murphy. Murphy, who has split has career playing for Golden State and Indiana, with a recent stint with the Nets, is the type of player that could add the depth down low that the Celts will need in the playoffs.
At first glance Troy Murphy doesn’t seem like much of an addition. In his nine NBA seasons, he has played one of them to 82 games. He was a player unloaded by the lowly Pacers, only to be unloaded again by the even lowlier Nets shortly after. What possible impact could a lanky white guy with more career injuries than Jermaine O’Neal and Delonte West combined have on this Celtics team? That’s why the second glance is important.
Despite the injury issues, Troy Murphy has put together a solid NBA career with skills the Celtics are in desperate need of. Murphy, who has made his accomplishments quietly, has been a top rebounder in the league over his career, averaging 8.5 rebounds a game. Murphy can also shoot the 3 ball with the best of em, having a career percentage of just under 40. In fact, he is the only player in NBA history to rank in the top five in both rebounds and 3 point field goal percentage.
Worried he’s on the downslide? Statistically, Murphy had one of the best seasons of his career in 2009-10, averaging almost 15 points a game and ranking 7th in the League in rebounds. The Celtics, who have been just horrible this year in rebounding, have a bona fide glass-eater on this squad now. On top of that, the guy can score, something Perkins didn’t remotely bring to the table.
There are some things the Celtics won’t be able to replace with Perkins gone. His physical intensity and defensive ability will be missed, along with his emotion. Those bone-barring picks for Rondo and Ray Allen will be missed as well. The question that remains is, can the Celtics compete for a championship without him? I say yes. With Troy Murphy in the fold now, I can get my mental picture of banner #18 back out of Perkin’s pocket.