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Puzzling trade could hurt Celtics

Even the most passionate followers of the NBA were weary of hearing about Carmelo Anthony’s next move. It was a lot like the annoying reality show that drags on for months and finally ends when the guy hands out his final rose and proposes.

The drama of the trade deadline has passed, finally, and Anthony has taken his talents to the New York Knicks.

Anthony’s new team will be an entertaining sideshow, but, same as “The Bachelor,” the Knicks can’t be taken seriously. Not for the rest of this season, at least.

Only three teams can win the Eastern Conference, and two of them hooked up for a heck of a show Thursday night as the Chicago Bulls, 3-point home underdogs, beat the Miami Heat, 93-89.

The other serious contender is Boston, which made a baffling trade earlier in the day. As of Wednesday, I was convinced the Celtics would be crowned league champions in June. A day later, the big picture in Boston was not so clear to see.

The Celtics pulled off three deals, but in the one that matters they sent center Kendrick Perkins and guard Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for forward Jeff Green and center Nenad Krstic.

The pint-sized Robinson will be missed a little because he could provide a spark off the bench. Perkins, a tough defender and rebounder, leaves a major void in the middle, especially if portly Shaquille O’Neal breaks down.

“The trade surprised me,” said handicapper Jim Kruger of VegasSportsAuthority.com. “Perkins had his best season last year and had improved offensively. He’s one of the best defensive post players in the league. For Boston to get by Orlando and to beat the Lakers, I felt a healthy Perkins was mandatory.”

The Celtics (41-15) have the East’s best record, so no shake-up was necessary. Boston already was the league’s worst team in offensive rebounding, Kruger noted, and they just traded their best offensive rebounder.

“However, Perkins’ contract is expiring at the end of the year, and perhaps the Celtics felt they wouldn’t be able to keep him,” Kruger said. “Or, perhaps his recent knee bruise is more severe than has been reported. Coming off of a torn ACL last year, maybe the Celtics thought Perkins was going to be the Eastern Conference version of Greg Oden, perpetually injured.”

Any way you look at it, it’s tough to make sense of what Boston general manager Danny Ainge is doing. As for the futures wager I was about to place on the Celtics, maybe it can wait.

Don’t write off the Lakers, who got by Boston in the Finals partly because of Perkins’ injury. As shaky as they have looked, the Lakers still have Kobe Bryant and about 2½ months to get their act together.

Still, too many people are sleeping on the San Antonio Spurs, who are 47-10 straight up and 34-21-2 against the spread. The Spurs are the best day-to-day bet in the NBA, and their long-range outlook is positive, too. The West appears to be a two-team race between the Spurs and Lakers.

Dallas is a postseason pretender. But Kevin Durant and the Thunder became more of a threat by adding Perkins.

“If Perkins is healthy, Oklahoma City is a contender for the title in the West,” Kruger said. “The Thunder gave the Lakers everything they could handle last year in the playoffs. Perkins could be the edge Oklahoma City needs.”

Kruger’s power ratings have Miami No. 1, followed by San Antonio and Boston.

“While it appears the Heat’s offense has improved the past couple months, their offensive efficiency ratings have remained static,” Kruger said. “Miami had that great December by going 15-1 with only a two-point loss to Dallas tarnishing its record. Only four of the 15 wins were by less than double digits. But Miami took a big step back from the end of December to the All-Star break by going 16-6.

“Chicago is just a middle-of-the-pack offensive team. Orlando appears to be fading as Dwight Howard is counted on too much.”

A lot of potential exists with Derrick Rose and the Bulls, but they seem to be a key player short. The Heat have two superstars and too many spare parts. Chris Bosh, as I’ve claimed many times, is a super-fraud, and he shot a miserable 1-for-18 in the loss to the Bulls.

“It should be Miami versus Boston in the Eastern finals,” Kruger said. “I’ll take the Celtics to make it to the Finals. Miami just doesn’t have the depth nor the supporting cast to make it that far.”

It’s sometimes said Boston’s stars — Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and let’s throw in Shaq — are creeping over the hill and in need of rocking chairs on the bench.

But the Celtics are not too old to win the title. The problem seems to be their new look, without Perkins in the paint, is not improved.

Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts the “Las Vegas Sportsline” weeknights at midnight on KDWN-AM (720) and thelasvegassportsline.com.

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