Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joined The Big Show to talk about the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City and how he sees the new pieces fitting for his team. Ainge reiterated that there were a number of factors that led to the trade, including the financial ramifications of a new contract for Perkins, who would have been a free agent after this year, as well as the chance to add players who can help the Celtics win this year. Ainge also was concerned about Perkins' knees.
"I was worried about Perk's health," Ainge said. "Perk was not the same player coming off the knee surgery and then he had the sprained knee ligament against Golden State that was going to put him out for a few more weeks. There was some concern there."
Ainge added later in the interview: "There's one thing I would never question with Kendrick is his integrity, his character, his work ethic. He's a great young man and individual, but I've never seen a guy come back what they were especially as quick as he came back. He came back, which is to his credit. That tells you what kind of character he has. That was an amazing feat. He didn't just have an ACL tear. He had an MCL partial tear. he had a meniscus tear in the same knee. But he was not the same player, then he had the injury against Golden State in the other knee. So, yeah, of course there's doubt."
Ainge said that while the trade does help with the C's future rebuilding efforts, he never would have done the deal if he thought it would have cost his team a chance at winning a championship this year. "I would have never done that if I thought we were taking a step backwards for this year," Ainge said. "With this unique opportunity with the big four trying to win a championship right now, if I thought we were taking a step back I would have sacrificed that for a chance to win this year."
Ainge also said that he talked with Perkins' agent over the All-Star break and tried to convince them to sign an extension with the team, but they were determined to test the market. Perkins later signed an extension with Oklahoma City, which had more room under the cap to offer a larger deal. "I knew what the open market had in store for Kendrick Perkins, so I'm not shocked at all that Oklahoma City gave Kendrick the money that they gave them. That was not something we could do with the payroll we have. That was completely out of the question."
Here are some other highlights from the conversation:
On the upgrades to the bench: "Our success this year will be determined more by those four, our four All-Stars, more than anyone else. Now Doc [Rivers] looks down the bench and he has a three-year starter that's 24 years old in Jeff Green. A guy that started two years ago on the team with the best record in the NBA at point guard in Delonte West. Troy Murphy, who's been a starter his entire career and is only 30 years old. He looks down the bench and sees nothing but starters."
On Jermaine O'Neal: "He looks great. He looks better now than he did in training camp. Jermaine was talking about retirement and wondering if he had it. Tough decisions going back and forth. I think now he wishes he had done the surgery a little earlier. His spirits are up, he's putting the time in, I think we'll have the good Jermaine." Ainge estimated a timetable for his return at around three weeks.
On Rivers' biggest coaching challenge: "Doc's toughest job is the Jeff Green piece. The most difficult transition is going to be Jeff Green because Jeff is so capable of playing so many different things to maximize his talents. He's got so much to offer. I think that's Doc single focus, seeing the things he can do and how to best utilize him."
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