The Boston Celtics have been on an emotional roller coaster since pulling the trigger on the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green.
Initially, they came out strong, winning five of their first six matches with the new lineup. The trade's detractors began to second guess themselves and once more Danny Ainge looked like a genius.
However, this early success was short lived.
These losses sent the Celtics into a tailspin from which they have yet to recover.
However, with the NBA Playoffs just weeks away, there is little good news on the horizon for Celtics fans.
Many of the problems they have experienced during the regular season will only be exacerbated in the playoffs.
And many of these problems can be directly attributed to the loss of Kendrick Perkins.
It is only natural that when a new player joins a team it takes him a little while to adjust to the new system.
When a number of new players join a team the problem is multiplied.
This was seen most recently in the Miami Heat's newly formed '"superteam", which was built almost from scratch by Heat management during the offseason.
The team started the season confused and unorganised, and this was reflected in their poor early season record. However, over the course of the season the team have learned to play together as a cohesive unit. They are now peaking at just the right time.
The Boston Celtics, however, have no such luxury.
The team added five players to its roster (Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green, Troy Murphy, Sasha Pavlovic and Carlos Arroyo) in a matter of weeks. With just a handful of months before the playoffs, there has been little time—on or off the court—for them to acclimatise to the Celtics system.
Of course, with the shortened rosters of the postseason, many of them will not see much time on the floor for the Celtics. However, Krstic and Green would have benefited from a season to adjust.
No such need existed with Kendrick Perkins.
He knew the Celtics system—indeed, it was the only NBA system he had ever known.
Though the Orlando Magic are no longer the threat they were in previous years, they are still the Celtics potential second round opponent should they be able to retain their top seeding in the Eastern Conference. As such, they still need to be taken seriously.
And Dwight Howard is the sole reason for this.
This season Howard has played at a career-high level—motivating many to nominate him as this year's Most Valuable Player.
Kendrick Perkins is one of the few players who was able to guard Howard without a double team. This freed up the rest of the team to guard the perimeter players, and prevent the Magic long bombers from doing their damage.
Although Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal have the bulk to match up with Howard, they don't have the athleticism to keep him in check.
Without Perkins to control Howard, the Celtics will have to play more team help defence—unnecessarily diverting defensive attention from the Magic's sharpshooters.
This could have disastrous consequences come the playoffs.
Although the trade of Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City brought with it an injection of youth to the Celtics—both Krstic and Green are under thirty years of age—that youth stands outside the starting five.
And this is just where the Celtics need a youth upgrade.
Assuming Shaquille O'Neal resumes his starting spot, apart from Rajon Rondo the Celtics will be taking to the playoffs with one of the oldest starting fives to contend for a title in quite some time.
This means the Celtics will be a step behind at the start of games, and will be tiring in the fourth quarter when the starting five are called on to close out tight games.
Age has many advantages over youth. But, the Celtics will need the energy that the more youthful Perkins could have brought them in the playoffs.
With Kendrick Perkins the Celtics had a young gun, full of energy, who was able to compete the whole 48 minutes if required.
The same cannot be said of the expected starting center Shaquille O'Neal.
Prior to the trade the Boston Celtics had in Kendrick Perkins a player with two NBA Finals behind him.
One series culminated in victory, the other a narrow defeat.
Both series helped Perkins grow as a player and a person.
These are experiences which neither Nenad Krstic nor Jeff Green possess.
Krstic has the most experience at 21 games, whilst Green's sole postseason experience is the Oklahoma City Thunder's 6-2 drubbing last year at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Sure, both players may gain experience in time—perhaps even this playoffs. But they don't have a wealth of high-level playoff experience from which to draw upon now.
And now is when we need it.
Kendrick Perkins. Shaquille O'Neal. Jermaine O'Neal. Troy Murphy. Nenad Krstic.
The list of Celtics big men who have missed significant time with injury goes five deep.
"But," I hear you ask, "Perkins was one of the most injured Celtics players. How will the Celtics miss him?"
Yes, Perkins was the most notable victim of the Celtics big man curse. Indeed, no recent Celtics injury has had as profound an impact on the team's title chances as the right ligament tear that kept Perkins out of last year's Game Seven against the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, when healthy himself, Perkins' presence on the team was extra insurance should the aging O'Neals break down sometime during the more physical Playoffs.
If, or perhaps when, the Celtics big man curse strikes again, the Celtics will need another dependable big man to throw on the floor.
Perkins was such a man—Nenad Krstic is not.
Okay, I am cheating a little here—putting two players down under one heading.
But, in truth, Gasol and Bynum are a two-headed monster.
Together they anchor the Los Angeles Lakers' front court, standing as an intimidating barrier between opposing players and the basket.
Just as the Boston Celtics liked to brag that they had never been defeated in a seven game series with a healthy starting five, the Lakers could make a similar claim.
Bynum was injured during the Lakers' 2008 Finals loss to the Celtics. His return to health in 2009 and 2010 allowed the Lakers to win back-to-back NBA Championships.
Overcoming a fully healthy Lakers' frontcourt in the Finals would be a formidable challenge for the Celtics. In Perkins the Celtics had a player to match Bynum or Gasol pound for pound. With his absence, the Celtics are left with a doughnut-like hole in the middle.
As everyone knows, when the playoffs begin everything changes.
The pace slows. The play is rougher. And every shot is contested like it is a potential game winner.
Each playoff game is a war.
And in a war you need a warrior.
And there was no man who represented the image of a warrior for the Celtics more than Kendrick Perkins.
Perkins never gave up. Never stopped fighting. Never stopped believing that if he put his faith in his team mates, that they could overcome any obstacle.
And Perkins was right. Right up until the moment he was traded.
With two-for-one player trades in professional sports it is often remarked that it is better to trade "four quarters for a dollar."
Celtics' fans know too well that this is true.
In 2007, the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Kevin Garnett to the Celtics. In exchange, the Timberwolves received Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, a 2009 first round draft pick (top three protected) and a return of Minnesota's conditional first round draft pick previously obtained in the Ricky Davis-Wally Szczerbiak trade.
Fast forward four years and it is clear which team was the winner and which the loser in that trade.
The Celtics have one ring and two finals appearances to their credit. The Timberwolves are so bad that their recent lottery pick decided to stay in Europe rather than play for them.
Whilst it may take a few more years for the Perkins trade to be fairly judged, it is clear that in the upcoming playoffs Perkins would be of more value to the Celtics than Krstic and Green.
During the playoffs, Celtics' coach Doc Rivers is expected to shorten the rotations and play the starting five for greater minutes.
In such a situation, it would be much more useful to have 35-40 minutes from Kendrick Perkins than 15-20 minutes a piece from Green and Krstic.
One of the main sources of problems for the Celtics in recent games has been their inability to grab defensive rebounds.
Without a strong rebounding presence, opposing teams have been given multiple opportunities to score.
For example, in their most recent loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Celtics allowed 18 second-chance points, whilst countering with only two of their own.
At the time he was traded, Kendrick Perkins was averaging over six defensive rebounds per game. His replacement in the starting lineup, Nenad Krstic, was averaging less than half that number at the same point.
This dramatic drop off in defensive rebounding skill will be keenly felt come the playoffs, when each possession could turn the tide of a game and perhaps even a series.
It takes many things for a team to win an NBA Championship.
Talent, determination, hard work and even a little luck.
But, one thing which almost everyone agrees on is that you need experience.
Experience not only of winning, but experience of losing.
Experience of putting everything you have into a series, only to see those efforts come to nothing.
This experience feeds your desire to come back the next season—hungrier and more determined to take your revenge.
However, by replacing Kendrick Perkins with a bunch of new faces, the Celtics have undermined that burning desire for vengeance.
Neither Krstic, Green, Murphy, Pavlovic or Arroyo were with the Celtics last year. None of them felt the agony of having Game Seven of the NBA Finals slip through their fingers.
Perkins was there. Perkins knew.
And, Perkins would have done anything to get back to the Finals this year.
This year he could get his wish. But it won't be with the Celtics.