Celtics

The Death of Ubuntu

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The Death of Ubuntu

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

DENVER At this point, you understand why Danny Ainge made the move.

Whether or not you agree with his logic is another story entirely.

For some out there in Celtics Nation, no line reasoning can make up for the fact that Kendrick Perkins is on his way to Oklahoma City, and nothing short of the 2011 title will reprieve Ainge for the decision. This camp watched Perk carve out a niche within this team of future Hall of Famers that not even his most ardent supporters could have imagined. They watched him grow from a goofy, oafish and uncoordinated rookie into one of the fiercest and effective defensive centers in the game. They watched him earn the respect and confidence of his far more talented teammates, and become what looked to be an irreplaceable part of the Celtics championship dreams. They watched Perkins go down last June, and then kill himself over the next seven months, only to get discarded 13 games into his comeback. For them, supporting this trade feels morally wrong. Its like asking out the girl who just broke your buddys heart.

Others are immune to the sentimentality of Perks departure. They havent forgotten this is a business, and see Perks knee, his soon-to-be excessive contract demands, the unexpected and urgent circumstances left by Marquis Daniels injury and understand this was a move Danny had to make. For this year, and the future.

Then, theres a third sect thats just still in shock. They dont know what to make of it. After all, the basketball world spent the last few weeks collectively obsessing over trade rumors like Ray Allen does his jumper. We thought we had every option pegged down. With the amount of time spent pouring over the possibilities, a surprise seemed about as likely as Avery Bradley winning Rookie of the Year. But obviously, we were all wrong. Now Kendrick Perkins plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder and that doesnt seem real. At least not yet.

Right now, as youre reading this, youre in one of those three camps. But for all the opposing opinions and the various pros and cons surrounding Perks departure, theres one thing that every one can agree on.

This Celtics team not the franchise, but this team will never be the same.

Losing Kendrick Perkins marked the end of an era.

Not the Kendrick Perkins Era, of course. Lets not get carried away. (Although its worth noting that hes one of only 25 guys in NBA history to play eight or more seasons for the Celtics.) Instead, its something much more important. Much more valuable than anyone in that locker room.

Perks trade marked the official end to the Era of Ubuntu.

It was a concept born, or at least adopted, during the teams 2007 trip through Europe. It was the reason the Celtics boarded that plane as 15 some-odd separate entities and returned ready to take the league by storm. Why they started the year 29-3 and cruised through a stress-free regular season. Sure, it helped that the Cs had three superstars leading the way, but as we learned this season down in South Beach, its not always that easy. It shouldnt be that easy. Its never that easy. But for the Celtics it was. Ubuntu was their way of life.

I am what I am because of who we all are."

Thats who this team was; how they approached every aspect of the game. It became the rallying cry for the entire season. And while youd be crazy to say that some random, age-old Bantu philosophy that no one on the team could even explain was solely responsible for an NBA title, youd also be blind to argue that that Celtics team didnt embody everything that Ubuntu was supposed to mean.

Despite all the talent, it was their chemistry and cohesive that set them apart. One goal. One page. One voice. One team. One title.

In a perfect world that 2008 team could have stayed intact, but thats not how it works these days. But as the years went on, and the faces changed, the heart of that 2008 team remained. It was always the starting five.

At times, injuries got in the way of ultimate success, but the confidence and chemistry never wavered. Weve spent the last four years talking about how the starting five had never lost a playoff series, and most of the time in that situation, that little stat would be a piece of media-created crap. But in this case, we didnt need it. In this case, it was the players who pushed that idea. They thrived off it. They believed it. When we are together, we are unbeatable. No one in the league could match that confidence. And while the Big Three still garnered most of the headlines, that starting five became the Celtics identity. If not in public, then for sure inside that locker room, and really, nothing else matters.

They were the Celtics starting five. Five very different guys with very different personalities, skill sets and approaches to the game, but together, they were Ubuntu.

They were what they were because of who they all were.

But now thats past tense. And so is that identity. And the Celtics are left scrambling to replace what was very likely their greatest advantage over the rest of the league.

Perkins may have been by far the least talented of that core, but he was the perfect fit. He understood that mentality and thrived in his role. Now the Celtics have two months to find a way to match a chemistry that was three and half years in the making.

Theyre left with Shaq, who, regardless of how much hes maybe changed, will always be bigger than the team. Theyre left with the unreliable Jermaine ONeal or the defenseless Nenad Krstic. Theyre left looking for an answer.

And thats not to say they cant find it.

It remains to be seen how this deal will work out for the Celtics, and anyone who sits here today and pretends to know how it will is just lying. Who knows what happens if the ONeals both get healthy. Or Troy Murphy shows up and finds some toughness. Or Jeff Green thrives in the presence of greatness. Or KG and Big Baby are able to withstand the weight of the entire front court for the extent of four playoff series.

But through all that indecision, and all the different opinions on what Danny should or shouldn't have done, theres one thing we know for sure.

Without Kendrick Perkins, these Celtics will never be the same.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Kyrie practices, expected to be back Sunday

Kyrie practices, expected to be back Sunday

WALTHAM, Mass. – Kyrie Irving was able to participate in all of Celtics practice on Saturday and is expected to be back on the floor when the C's host the Orlando Magic on Sunday.

Irving did not play in an 89-80 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday because of soreness in his left shoulder.

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He will continue to receive treatments for the shoulder, “but I’m just ready to go back out there and play,” Irving said. “I’ve had a few days to reset and do the things needed to put myself in a great position to go out there and play.”

Irving said earlier that the shoulder had been bothering him for a couple weeks and an overtime loss to New Orleans on Tuesday didn’t help matters.

Still just 25 but recently named to his fifth All-Star team, Irving’s return could not come at a better time for the Celtics.

Boston (34-12) has the best record in the Eastern Conference, but the C's are riding a two-game losing streak, which is only the third time this season they've lost back-to-back games.

Arguably Boston’s biggest issue in the loss to the Sixers was an offense that struggled in several phases.

Not having Irving available certainly made matters worse, but there were a number of elements of play that with Irving or not, coach Brad Stevens recognizes his team must make a significant improvement in if they are to remain among the top teams in the NBA.

Stevens talked extensively after the loss and again on Saturday about the team not playing hard enough on offense.

“I don’t want to take away from the teams we’re playing against. They’re really guarding us hard,” Stevens said. “But we’ve got to execute harder. The one thing that’s pretty obvious in person and when you watch on film, is we just didn’t play hard enough on offense which is kind of unique. That’s the way I felt.”

Irving said there needs to be an increase in emphasis on their offense, which would make the game easier for everyone.

“Our spacing, our cutting … just playing the game kind of within the game, understanding our talents and where we can make the game easier,” Irving said. “We have very unique talents on this team. When you’re trying to put that together and guys are coming back into the lineup and getting their rhythm still and guys are in and out sometimes … big picture, down the stretch, we’re going to need everyone to be on the same page.”

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Celtics sign Jarrell Eddie to 10-day contract

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Celtics sign Jarrell Eddie to 10-day contract

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have signed Jarell Eddie to a 10-day contract.

The 6-foot-7 forward, who has spent two seasons in the NBA with Washington and Phoenix, has appeared in 31 NBA games.

More recently, he played with the Gatorade League’s Windy City Bulls. Appearing in 10 games, Eddie, 26, averaged 17.2 points while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 50.7 percent from 3-point range along with 4.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists.

He will wear jersey No. 9.