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Celtics may regret letting Powe go

by Brandon Simes
Managing Editor
Thursday Aug 13, 2009
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Ouch. This one feels a lot like Johnny Damon signing with the Yankees, doesn’t it? And, just like that questionable decision on the part of the Red Sox (who fixed it rather circuitously by trading their shortstop for a prospect, whom they in turn traded for a centerfielder, whom they in turn replaced with a prospect and traded for a reliever), the Celtics may rue the day they let Leon Powe go.

The love affair between Boston fans and Powe has been well documented. His full-effort style of play-bruising, unflinchingly physical, to the point-is exactly what Bostonians love more than anything else. Now Cleveland, of all teams, has him.

Cleveland GM Danny Ferry released a statement announcing the signing saying just as much: "Leon is a high-quality player and person. His tough, gritty play has already contributed in big playoff games during his young career. As he continues to work rehabilitating his injury, we would look to hopefully see him return toward the end of the season."

Come June, if healthy, the Cavs will have a low-post option they haven’t seen the likes of since Carlos Boozer left them hanging in the summer of ’04. If not this year, then next, thanks to the two-year deal to which they signed the former homeless high school star.

"A lot of teams will tell a guy, ’Come see us when you’re healthy,’" said Aaron Goodwin, Powe’s agent. "The Cavs were saying, ’Come here now and we’ll help you get healthy.’"

I’m sure a lot of teams did say that, but there was only one that "owed" it to Leon to say what the Cavs did. The last spot on the bench is usually reserved for, well, a reserve, and an injured Powe would have played about as much as new Celtic Sheldon Williams and expiring contract/towel-waver Brian Scalabrine generally ought to in important games: zero minutes.

I know his injury history isn’t pretty. In fact, it would take about 12 shots of Jenkins to make that one look good, but if anyone can come back from another knee injury, it’s Leon Powe. He just doesn’t care about adversity; he’s shrugged it off too many times to fret over an obstacle placed in his way. He’d rather just dunk on it.

Sentimentality in sports often produces the opposite of its intent. Rather than give a guy a chance to play for his hometown team, or the franchise that he’s stuck with through the dark days, teams really give fans a reason to sour on a player when they sign him to a contract that favors him over the good of the team. But in this case, letting Powe go for purely logistical reasons was the wrong thing to do. Williams has proven himself to be a quality rebounder and less of an injury risk than Powe, but think about this: if the Hawks had the draft to do over again the year they both came out of college, whom do you think they would pick?

C’s GM Danny Ainge may regret making the same choice come playoff time.

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