See, you can’t truly love a team until you’ve suffered with it. The 2008 title team always felt like a fantasy team that had been thrown together in some sort of euphoric basketball dream that wasn’t quite real. Losing Garnett in 2009 (and eventually, the Orlando series) definitely hurt; blowing the 2010 title was 100 times worse. The agony of those last two games pushed our relationship with the team to an entirely different level. I still remember seeing Perkins rolling around in pain during Game 6 — it happened about 20 feet away from me — then the veterans watching him get helped off, his right leg dangling in the air, the life sinking from their bodies like Apollo watching Rocky wave him back to the corner. With a healthy 2011 Garnett in that Game 7, maybe we could have survived. Banged-up 2010 Garnett couldn’t get it done. The trophy was sitting there, and we couldn’t take it. A crestfallen Perkins spent the summer blaming himself, busted his butt to come back … and the Celtics dumped him a month after he returned. Claiming they couldn’t afford him only made it worse: The kid signed a discount extension four years ago and outperformed it. They owed him.
Bill Simmons can be an annoying homer sometimes, but that’s exactly what makes things like this – his rundown of emotions regarding seeing a favorite player traded away – so damned good.
I feel exactly the same way. Kendrick Perkins was never the best player on the Celtics. He wasn’t even one of the five best, at times. But he was easily one of the most important in terms of attitude, ability and specialty. He was one of my favorite players on the team, and I looked forward to the years when, after Garnett and Allen and Pierce walk away, Rondo and Perkins took the team as their own and continued playing genuine Celtics-style basketball.
Now, he’s gone. And, like Simmons says, I’ll eventually talk my way into this new era. Doesn’t make it any easier, though.