I, like many other long term Boston Celtics fans, was quite shocked and confused by the recent trades that saw Kendrick Perkins, Nate Robinson, Semih Erden and Luke Harrangody depart in one swift move. What was Danny Ainge doing? How could this possibly help the Celtics' title chances?
However, after a couple of days of reflection I have changed my mind on the matter. I now think the trades were great for the team, and will help them not only this season but going forward. And how did I come to this conclusion? Well, I watched the first game with the new squad, against the Los Angeles Clippers, but perhaps more importantly I played a few more games of NBA 2K11.
Now, most NBA fans under the age of 40 have heard of the NBA 2K series of electronic basketball games. Since the release of the original NBA 2K, back at the turn of the millennium, games creators 2K Sports have been battling head to head with Electronic Arts' NBA Live franchise for the spending cash of hoops gamers.
That was until 2010, when 2K Sports blew the competition out of the water by securing the rights to the G.O.A.T. Michael Jordan. Absent from the game since his retirement in 2003, fans clamoured to buy the latest edition of 2K11. The game has now become the highest selling basketball game ever.
As a semi-regular player of the game, and a Boston Celtics fan, I've been following the team's virtual progression this season via NBA 2K11. It has allowed me a unique perspective on the impact of the recent trade, and the relative worth of the players involved.
Whilst playing the game with the Boston Celtics during the first half of the season, I noticed a number of interesting phenomenon:
1. Nate Robinson was useless
As detailed in this earlier article, Nate is just too small to play shooting guard and not a good enough passer to play point guard. This was readily apparent to any NBA 2K11 user. Unless he was wide open, you were going to get blocked. During the start of the season, when Delonte West was still injured, this made it very difficult to play the game when Rajon Rondo was tiring. The offense stalled and it was like playing 4-on-5.
2. Shaquille O'Neal was better than I expected
As in real life, the virtual Shaq had many limitations. He was slow, he fumbled the ball often and shooting free throws was agonisingly difficult. However, get him the ball in the low post and you were almost always assured of a dunk or easy layup.
3. Kendrick Perkins was always injured
Whilst playing NBA 2K11 this season the thing I noticed the most about Perkins? His absence.
I spent almost the entire first half of the season playing with a revolving door of centers—Shaq, Jermaine, Semih, Big Baby—all the time waiting for Perkins to return. In the meantime I learned to play without him.
When he finally returned, I was elated. Now I would be able to play with the full Celtics roster. But no sooner had he returned and he was injured again. Once again I went back to not relying upon him to be healthy, helping me defeat my online opponents.
4. Semih Erden couldn't throw a ball in the ocean
In NBA 2K11, Erden's incredibly low shooting rank meant that he would frequently blow open shot right under the basket. In reality, Erden's incredibly low shooting skill meant he would frequently blow open shots from just about anywhere—when the Celtics ever got him the ball, that is.
Having now played NBA 2K11 with the new Celtics lineup, I can report that issues one, three and four have been resolved (obviously). However, I have observed the following new benefits of the new lineup:
1. It is handy having a center with a long range shot
I have found that playing with Nenad Krstic at center has really opened the paint up for me. With the old lineup I would often drive the lane with Rondo, have his path blocked and then kick it out to the open center (Shaq or Perkins) who was unable to do anything with it other than try and dribble in for a layup.
With Krstic, I have been dropping wide open 15- to 17-footers, and really making the opposing teams pay for leaving the center position unmarked.
2. The Celtics can run...and dunk!
Let's face it folks, the pre-trade Celtics were a bit of a lumbering behemoth. Old and clunky. But replace Semih Erden and Perkins with a speedy Jeff Green and a "marginally less-lumbering than Perkins and Erden" Krstic, and the pace picks up.
Not only does Green add more athleticism, by giving the starters more rest he allows them to run faster. Anybody playing NBA 2K11 on 12-minute quarters can appreciate the importance of managing players' fatigue levels. The bonus of having a bona fide dunker like Green on the court has also made the game that more fun to play. In the real world, that will hopefully translate into some awesome highlight reels.
3. The association needed to get younger
One of the most interesting functions of NBA 2K11 is the Association Mode (explained here), which allows you to manage a team for years or even decades. You manage contracts, scout new talent and plan the transition as older players age and retire.
Obviously, Danny Ainge has been playing a lot of NBA 2K11, as he is truly in Association Mode this season. Determined to rejuvenate the Celtics, Ainge has started making plans for the next decade of success by acquiring new, young players to take over once the big three hit the retirement home.
4. I've moved on
I thought I would miss Perkins more than I have. Nate I didn't expect to miss, and I haven't, but I am surprised that the absence of Perkins hasn't effected my gaming at all. Partly it is because I spent most of the season learning to live without him, but it is also that he has been replaced by players who add a new dimension to the team—a dimension I am enjoying.
So, in summary, cheer up Celtics fans! Whether it be on the floor of the TD Garden or the screen of your gaming system, this trade is good news.
The new Celtics are leaner, younger, quicker and less prone to injury. And once Shaq is back, eating up space in the middle and snacking on smaller centers, there will be few teams out there—virtual or otherwise—that will be able to match them. I have come around, and I am sure you will too.
If you are still in doubt, perhaps you just need to play a few more games of NBA 2K11 and compare the difference.
By the way Celtics fans, if are interested check out some of my other related articles:
Carmelo Anthony Trade: Why the Deal Is Good for the Boston Celtics
Why the Boston Celtics Need To Trade Nate Robinson, Now! - A little redundant now perhaps, but I guess I was just ahead of my time.
Has-Beens in Green: 10 Other Former All-Stars who Finished in Boston
LeBron James 2.0: Who Will Be The NBA's Next Superstar? Hint - it could be Rajon Rondo