I've heard enough about Kendrick Perkins. I mean, really? Still? It's been six days. My patience has worn off.
A nice player, yes.
A contributor to the 2008 championship team? Sure.
Gritty. Tough. A perfect fifth banana. The right guy for the right team.
All those things are true about Kendrick Perkins.
And now we can add this: Overrated.
Who would've guessed it? Until last Thursday Perkins fit perfectly as an example of what we look for when trying to define an underrated player.
Think about it: Surrounded by stars, does the dirty work, no commercials, no All-Star Games, no huge contract. Keeps his head down, puts up consistent numbers and never tries to do more than he's supposed to in the system.
You know how every championship team has that one guy the announcers always point to as underrated? Bill Mueller, Derek Fisher, Mike Vrabel, Ron Harper, Dave Concepcion. You know the type.
And until last week that guy for the Celtics was Kendrick Perkins.
And now, thanks to the trade to Oklahoma City, I've heard more about Perkins in the last six days than I did in the last seven years.
Mr. Underrated is gone, replaced by a hybrid of Bill Russell, Robert Parish and Moses Malone.
I mean, come on. This is Kendrick Perkins we're talking about here. I don't want to take shots at him, but this is a guy with career averages of 6.4 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. He has never played 30 minutes a game in any season. Hugely limited offensively and to find a Boston athlete with a worse pair of hands you have to go all the way back to, well, Tony Allen. But you get the point.
And I think many if not most among fans and media -- after letting the trade marinate for a couple of days -- have been able to at least understand why Danny Ainge made the deal, even if they don't agree with the move.
But there still remains a group that think this trade meant punting on Banner 18. And we aren't just talking about Rich from Malden here, either. Some serious A-listers in the local media think that letting Perkins go is a disaster. Glenn Ordway spent the first hour of the ALL NEW BIG SHOW (didja hear about it?) telling Michael Holley why the trade was a banner-blocker.
And I had to go back and make sure Rajon Rondo wasn't part of this deal after watching Michael Felger and Dan Shaughnessy perform a 10-minute duet of Ainge-bashing on Comcast Sunday night that might have been semi-comical if it hadn't come across as a completely orchestrated act of forced contrarianism.
Look, Perkins was clearly a valuable member of the Celtics. No question. And I don't think it's impossible that the Celtics lose the deal. I think Jeff Green is the best player in the trade and will be a solid No. 2 to Rondo when the Big Three exit, but maybe it turns out that he won't be that guy. Or maybe he doesn't like Boston and bolts for warm weather when the time comes. Who knows?
But I do know this: Since the trade three myths about Kendrick Perkins have emerged.
Perkins is the "Heart and Soul" of the Celtics defense: First of all, I don't even know what that means. But I've sure heard it enough the last five days. My guess is that Perkins -- a fine defensive player -- fits the profile of what people want to see when trying to cast the Heart and Soul role. The scowl. The aggressiveness. All business. People are comfortable doing that. I get it.
But if there is a "Heart and Soul" of this Celtics defense you and I and anyone who has even kept one eye on this team since November 2, 2007 know that Kevin Garnett is the beginning, middle and end of that debate. I'm OK with the idea that Perkins is a top-five defensive center in the league, but Garnett is a top-five defensive player. Which leads me to some more debunking …
No Perkins is why the Celtics lost Game 7 last year: Well, to be fair, this one has been kicking around since about the final buzzer of Game 7. And I have no doubt that Perkins would been a help, an obvious upgrade defensively over a severely out of shape Rasheed Wallace (who still put up an 11-8 in 35 minutes, numbers you'd have signed for from a healthy Perkins). But why does Perkins guarantee a win? He played 24 minutes in Game 1, grabbed a whopping three rebounds and blocked zero shots in a loss. Impossible that he puts up that kind of line again? The truth is that the Celtics kicked away a double-digit lead because Kevin Garnett was playing on one leg and couldn't stop Pau Gasol (who was robbed of Finals MVP). If Garnett's healthy, I think the Celtics win. The story of Game 7 wasn't the loss of Perkins, it was Pau Gasol grabbing six times as many rebounds as Kevin Garnett. Could Perkins have helped slow Gasol down? Maybe, but he was on the floor for the first five games of the series, and Gasol averaged 11 rebounds a game (including 4.1 offensive rebounds per game).
The Celtics need Perkins to get past Dwight Howard: I need some help with this. The Celtics are currently six games ahead of the Magic in the standings. They beat Orlando in six games in last year's Eastern Conference Finals after taking a 3-0 lead. They have beaten the Magic in two out of three games this season (two of those games without Perkins).
Let's assume -- for the sake of argument -- that the Celtics were a demonstrably better team than the Magic five minutes before the Perkins trade was announced. Sorry, I just don't see how removing Perkins and Nate Robinson and adding Green and Kristic makes up that difference for Orlando.
Look at last year: Despite all the concern when it got to 3-2, that series was never really in doubt. And for all the talk about how Perkins can handle Howard one-on-one (which has validity) he still averaged 21.8 points, 11 rebounds and shot 57 percent from the floor. Not quite his seasonal numbers but not far off. I don't think removing Perkins and putting in whatever combo of Shaq/Jermaine O'Neal/Kristic/Troy Murphy? is going to turn Howard into a 35-15 player.
Again, doesn't it all come down to Garnett? He didn't play in that series vs. Orlando two years ago (I think Perkins was out there, and that didn't get in the way of Howard averaging 16.4 points and 17.1 rebounds -- and where was the heart and soul when Orlando shot 61 percent in Game 7? All the scowling the world isn't going to help when Brian Scalabrine and Stephon Marbury are logging significant minutes.) but even at 70 percent locked up Rashard Lewis in the six-gamer last season.
The Celtics can start 24-3 without Kendrick Perkins as long as Kevin Garnett is healthy. They can beat a Magic team that is frankly looking more like a have-not (and fully capable of quitting on Stan Van Gundy) by the day without Kendrick Perkins as long as Kevin Garnett is healthy.
And I think they can win a championship without Kendrick Perkins as long as Kevin Garnett is healthy. And yes, I understand that Ray Allen and Paul Piece and Rondo have to be healthy as well, but still it all starts and ends with Garnett.
Kendrick Perkins landed in a perfect spot. He'll set screens for Kevin Durant and rebound and give the Thunder a layer of toughness they were unquestionably missing.
But Danny Ainge -- I don't think a manic interventionist -- took a look at Perkins' ceiling (think he's going to get better?) injury history, and I'm sure had a detailed study of how well big, physical centers age and took a shot a $5.5 million a year but passed at $10 million or so a year.
Makes sense to me. Sure, Perkins is swell as the fifth (or sixth -- there's a reason he sat on the bench down the stretch of games) guy on a really good team. Strengths augmented, weaknesses hidden. But are you comfortable paying Kendrick Perkins $10 million a year to put up 8-8?
Those kind of numbers for that kind of money equal an overrated player.
And I don't care how much heart and soul comes with the deal.