Celtics ready to welcome new additions
Trade acquisitions will join team for first time Saturday in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES -- With an off day in San Francisco earlier this week, Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins used the downtime to kick back at the Celtics' team hotel and reminisce about the start of their careers in Boston.
If Perkins had any inkling about his future, he didn't let West know that day.
Sitting in the visitors locker room in Denver on Thursday night, just hours after Perkins got dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a deadline shocker, West admitted nothing surprises him in the NBA anymore. But he already seemed a bit nostalgic about that time the pair shared in the Bay Area just 24 hours earlier.
"We went to his room and we chilled for a few hours," West said. "Just zoned out and talked about old times. ... You gotta appreciate those times, you know?"
Perkins and West did more than spend three years in Boston together from 2004 to 2007. They cut their NBA teeth together and bonded on teams that struggled. When West signed in Boston as a free agent this offseason, he said Perkins welcomed him back with open arms, and the two shared neighboring lockers this season.
Now, in a locker room rattled by Perkins' departure, it's West who is ready to welcome Jeff Green (and Nenad Krstic) with open arms. Ironically, West and Green were the centerpieces of the draft day trade in 2007 that brought Ray Allen to Boston and laid the groundwork for the Big Three to be assembled.
West appeared in only 35 games for Seattle (before the SuperSonics became the Thunder) but got to know Green during that time and raved about what he can bring to Boston. More than three years after their paths diverged, West and Green -- along with Glen Davis, who also was involved in that trade -- will comprise the core of Boston's bench in its quest for Banner 18.
"Jeff Green gives you size, first of all, and an ability to stretch floor," West said. "He's versatile. He's a young player, and you can see upside. He gives us another big wing defender and [is] a guy that can also fill the cup up."
Green and West also are united by their Maryland roots. Green played his varsity ball at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, while West came out of Eleanor Roosevelt in Greenbelt, little more than 6 miles away.
"Well, [Green is] a Maryland guy like Kevin Durant, so when I came out to Seattle at the time, we clicked right away," West said. "For a minute there, we thought it was going to be a whole D.C./Maryland backcourt out in Seattle. Two years later, I'm here in Boston [with Green on his way]. It's a crazy business."
Green will enjoy having someone in his corner out of the gates because, fair or not, he has to prove to a fan base (and maybe even some teammates) that he is worthy of Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge breaking up the Celtics' nucleus.
"Guys have got to come in, and they've got to be mature," Allen said. "They've got to be ready to hit the ground running. There's no time to stop, and there are a lot of teams going through that right now. A lot of teams have made trades and now they're starting over, but we're not starting over."
Those who know Green best think he'll thrive, including Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who watched a lot of Green during his time at Georgetown (where Rivers' eldest son, Jeremiah, played before transferring to Indiana).
The Celtics will ask Green to utilize his versatility at both ends of the court, providing a much-needed scoring punch off the Boston bench (at both forward spots), while also guarding some of the East's elite perimeter players.
Rivers stresses that no one person is assigned the job of shutting down those players, but a lot will fall on Green.
"Do you feel comfortable with anyone guarding [LeBron James] or [Carmelo Anthony]?" Rivers asked. "I've seen him enough; that one year [at Georgetown], I saw a lot of him that year. In Oklahoma [City], he switched on 1s, 2s and 3s in pick-and-roll coverage. I know he'll want to [cover those elite wing players]. In our defensive schemes, we're going to have to help him guard them. Everybody has to help guard those guys."
Green, Boston's fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft, is averaging 15.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 37 minutes per game this season. His 3-point percentage (30.4 percent) is down from two years ago, when it peaked at 38.9 percent, but the Celtics are hopeful that will escalate given Boston's ability to generate open looks for everyone.
"[Green's] young and he can play," Allen said. "He'll help our bench production out. It seemed like he got lost in the shuffle down in Oklahoma City, but he's got tremendous upside, and Krstic gives us length, so I look forward to having both of them."
Krstic, acquired along with Green and a future first-round pick in exchange for Perkins and Nate Robinson, won't face nearly as many expectations. But he'll be just as vital, especially early on with Boston aching for healthy bigs.
The 7-foot Krstic, a former first-round pick (24th overall in 2002) of the New Jersey Nets (where he was coached by top Boston assistant Lawrence Frank), has averaged 10.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in seven NBA seasons (which is actually on par with Perkins' career-best season in 2009-10, when he averaged 10.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game).
Krstic isn't nearly the defender Perkins is, but he'll add another versatile option to the Boston bench, able to stretch the floor and shoot from the perimeter. If the Celtics are able to get Shaquille O'Neal (inflamed right Achilles) and Jermaine O'Neal (left knee surgery) healthy later this season, Krstic essentially will be filling the sort of depth position rookie Semih Erden (also jettisoned Thursday in a separate deal with Cleveland) was filling.
Boston players weren't willing to call Thursday's trade a victory quite yet because the most important part to them is whether Green and Krstic can meld with this close-knit team. They might not have a choice. As Kevin Garnett noted, "Jeff and the guys come in [Saturday], and the chemistry starts there."
The Celtics were expecting Green and Krstic to fly to the West Coast on Friday, take their physicals, and be on the floor for Saturday's shootaround in Los Angeles in advance of their game against the Clippers.
Meanwhile, Boston will continue to monitor the buyouts going on around the league with eyes toward adding as many as two more players with its available roster spots. All eyes seem to be on Troy Murphy, the sharpshooting big man who was traded to Golden State this week and could wind up available. The Cavaliers waived old friend Leon Powe, and the Celtics could add some beef up front if they desired another undersized power forward (but there seems little reason to rush into that).
Boston's antenna will be up on wings like Philadelphia's Jason Kapono, who would add even more depth at that swingman spot (and a 3-point threat). Everyone's watching the volatile situation in Detroit to see whether the likes of Rip Hamilton hit the open market.
Like Perkins with West, and now West with Green, the Celtics will welcome all new faces with open arms. But they'll have to adapt quickly.
"Hopefully the guys we have coming in understand what we're trying to do around here," captain Paul Pierce said. "It's still a championship goal."
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.