By Ryan McGowan
“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” –Obi-Wan Kenobi, Revenge of the Sith.
I hate when one of my teams makes a big trade. If only because I’m pretty much guaranteed to want to poke my ears out after a few days of listening to the reactions on sports radio, especially when said trade happens in the dog days of February when the only other option for discussion is whether the Red Sox will start Felix Doubront or Stolmy Pimental in the exhibition opener against the BC Eagles.
The other reason why I hate when one of my teams makes a big trade is because everyone expects you to have a knee-jerk reaction to it. Especially me, who for some reason serves as the arbiter of all Boston sports transactions among a small but passionate group of my fan friends. The sad reality is that I usually don’t have much to say about a trade.
It’s July 31, 2004, the MLB trade deadline, and I’m at a free Dispatch concert on the Esplanade. We start hearing through the grapevine that the Sox traded Nomar Garciaparra for Doug Mientkiewicz and Orlando Cabrera (I know there were more people involved, but those were the key parts). Everyone wanted my immediate reaction, and right away there was a weird combination of panic and relief in the Nation.
My first reaction was to take a wait-and-see approach. I knew Nomar had to go, but I didn’t know enough about how the new guys would fit into the current scheme (hindsight verdict: they fit pretty damn well). But listening to the airwaves and filtering the chatter around town, it seemed like everyone needed an opinion, and it had to be either “I hate the trade, this is the end of Western civilization as we know it” or “I love the trade, it’s going to start a ripple effect which will culminate in a cure for cancer.”
And seemingly every time a big deal is made, those are the only two reactions people want to hear from you. Celtics get Ray Allen on draft day in 2007, then they trade half the team to bring Kevin Garnett to Boston. Patriots get Randy Moss in ‘07, and then give away Randy Moss in ’10. Bruins get rid of Phil Kessel. Pats give Mass Cassel and Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs. Red Sox get a slightly-banged up Adrian Gonzalez. Every move has to be either the panacea for everything that ails the franchise, or the undisputed moment which will mark the end of professional sports as we know them.
Maybe I’m just an indecisive fence-sitter, but when it comes to trades, I don’t think they can be judged right away. Much like I think it’s ridiculous when Todd McShay and Mel Kiper, Jr., rate every NFL team’s draft 20 minutes after the last pick is made. It’s impossible to tell what the impact of a draft or a trade is going to be without a much larger sample size than 48 hours and three Michael Felger rants.
So I’m going to reserve judgment, for now, on the deal that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson for some Serbian guy and Jeff Green, who is either somebody the Celtics originally drafted in the first place or Larry David’s fat agent.
It’s been interesting to see the progression of popular opinion on the trade. When the deal was first announced, people were up in arms about it. They didn’t see any way that Danny Ainge could possibly trade away the beloved Perk, forgetting of course that the big guy’s main problem was that at the end of close games the Celtics are essentially playing 3-on-5 with him on the floor, since no one bothers to cover him or Rondo anywhere on the court.
They remember the great defense he plays against Dwight Howard, conveniently forgetting that with the Unholy Trio in Miami, Derrick Rose in Chicago, and the addition of Carmelo in New York, the Celtics have a much better chance of needing to stop a slashing, scoring wing player than a stationary big. Celtics Nation was in an uproar about who was going to stop Andrew Bynum, forgetting that now that Perk is in Oklahoma City, the Lakers might not even make it past the Thunder to the Finals this year.
As the past few days have gone by, though, more people are starting to see the wisdom of the trade. Sure, it’s a ballsy move to break up a team’s chemistry when they’re in first place in the conference. And yes, the fact that Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal are about as reliable as Charlie Sheen’s AA sponsor might not bode well for the Green’s playoff hopes. And who is going to play Donkey to Big Baby’s Shrek now that Nate is gone?
As I cautioned earlier, time will tell. There’s a lot of basketball left to be played this year. I am holding back from declaring the Perkins trade the savior of all things Celtic, undoubtedly the turning point in the drive to the eventual Banner 18 (as the Nomar trade was to the 04 Sox). I am also refraining from announcing it to be the termination for all intents and purposes of my Celtics fandom, which stretches back to the early Larry Bird era.
Should I have a stronger opinion? Maybe, if I were trying to boost ratings to my radio show (which, incidentally, should be back this week), I could manufacture a concocted position about how Danny Ainge is either the second coming of Martin Luther King, Jr., or another incarnation of Stalin. But I’m a realist, and I don’t deal in absolutes.
I’ll leave that to Knicks fans when discussing the Melo trade.