I can hear the complaints already… “you’re just another Boston fan on a witch hunt,” – but before you pass judgement, hear me out. In February 2011 the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Jeff Green to the Boston Celtics in a wildy unpopular trade here in Boston. Kendrick Perkins, a key defensive player, starter, and a member of the 2008 championship team was sent to OKC along with Nate Robinson.
Trust me, I’m no Kendrick Perkins lover but I was adamantly against the trade. Perkins was a key component of the Celtics defense, was beloved by his fellow starters, and his absence left a notable hole in a Championship roster. Sorry, but Nenad Krstic just didn’t cut it. At the time, the Celtics seemed poised to make another title run, but the trade clearly threw the team off track. Then prior to this season Jeff Green was suddenly diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm – he missed this season and his contract was voided. Next thing you know, Davis Stern is awarding the Celtics with the Thunder’s 2013 second round draft pick (which was not part of the trade)… sounds a little fishy to me, no?
So what the heck happened? According to Stern, the Thunder’s management did nothing wrong. They didn’t know of Green’s condition and hence didn’t let the Celtic’s know about it. But apparently the Thunder’s cardiologists did know about the issue – they withheld the information from both the Celtics and their own management. Again, something seems a little off there to me.
Many will argue that the Celtic’s own team of physicians should have picked up the problem. Frankly, I’m no physician so I won’t comment. But it seems entirely likely to me that with no reason to believe that Green had an aortic aneurysm, tests which may have picked up on the condition were not completed – a typically thorough physical evaluation probably was. At the very least OKC’s team of physicians seem to have acted very unethically, and hence the Celtics were awarded OKC’s draft pick.
I will say that Boston fans have a huge reason to be pissed off. If Green’s condition had been mentioned upfront, the trade likely would not have gone through. I think it’s a fair statement to say that the Celtics would have had a much more likely shot at a title in 2011 with Kendrick Perkins on the team – his absence was the Celtics’ glaring weakness in the 2011 playoffs. Likewise, if the trade had gone through successfully with the Celtic’s obtaining a truly healthy Green, Boston would have had another significant scoring option and a defender much more capable of guarding Lebron James. Make no mistake about it, I think the Heat were the best team in the league this year. But there’s no arguing that the Celtic’s matched up particularly well with them – and the match-up would have been significantly better with Jeff Green on the team.
If you’ll remember correctly, the Celtic’s took the Heat to 7 games this year in the Eastern Conference Finals. They did this on old legs, without a young player with size and length to guard Lebron. Green could have been just that guy, and with the series being as close as it was, he very well could have made the difference.
Of course you can never say “the Celtics would have won in 2011 or 2o12″ with any sort of true confidence. But as a result of some shady and unethical behavior on the part of the Thunder, all we can do is wonder about what very realistically could have been – title number 18 hanging in the rafters of the Garden.