The misguided among us who are still lamenting the distant swap of more or less Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green will surely disagree. But as the season and possibly an era ended against the Knicks Friday night, the player the Celtics desperately required from that infamous trade was not the beloved, declining Perk, but one of those more or lessers:

How much would Nate Robinson, Game 1 Heat slayer and Guy Who Could Dribble The Ball Upcourt Without Getting Stripped By Iman Shumpert, have helped the Celtics in this lost series?

I know, I know – that it's come to the lamenting the absence of pesky, gunning-like-a-Mini-Melo, pain-in-the-everything Robinson is further evidence that the ending was grim and the finality real. It's one of the small what-ifs you think of when your season is over and your exes and conquerors play on. It's not as depressing as being a, say, Minnesota Timberwolves fan left with the eternal hopeless daydream of a Ricky Rubio-Stephen Curry backcourt. But it's still a bummer.

Hey, at least we aren't pining for Nenad Krstic. Though, you know, they could have used him too. What got me thinking about all of this, though, was Perk, and how coveted he remains by those who obviously haven't watched him play more than a time or two since he moved to Oklahoma City.

He was and still is beloved here, and the past tense aspect of it is absolutely understandable. He was a starter on a championship team, a throwback role player who had a ferocious on-court persona and an impossibly likable, gentle demeanor at every other moment. The New Big Three might – hell, would – have two rings had he not messed up his knee in Game 6 of the 2010 Finals, given that he might – again, would – have made up some of Pau Gasol's 15-rebound advantage over Kevin Garnett in Game 7. Then again, I'm not sure he was much more valuable during the 2007-08 postseason run than P.J. Brown.

I know, I'm meandering here, looking through the photo albums and rewatching the highlight reels, probably savoring the past as a way of avoiding the present. But while Perk has been gone for a couple of seasons now, his departure is telling – and perhaps reassuring in a way – regarding how Danny Ainge will approach this offseason.

From a purely basketball standpoint, I know it's probably time to move on from Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and that 20-0 run in Game 6 was their Celtics coda, the final confirmation that the determination is extraordinary but their talent is slowly leaking out.

I know that this should be goodbye. I just don't know that I'm ready for goodbye – this six-year Celtics stretch, watching the core of this New Big Three revive this franchise (yes, including already-gone Ray Allen) with their uncommon ability, on-court unity, work ethic and competitiveness, is a joy I'll always savor. Sentimentally, I want a seventh year. I want them back next year.

Ainge – as we learned with the Perk deal, not to mention his infamous comments about how the original Big Three stayed together too long – will not be so sentimental. He will not be sentimental at all, actually. He's kept this group together for three years beyond the original three-year plan because it made the most sense every single year.

It may still – but man, is it ever complicated. It's hard to fathom paying $15.2 million to Paul Pierce next season if he's the shell of himself that Iman Shumpert, Jason Kidd and the Knicks made him appear to be. He's always had the old man's game. In Game 6, he just looked like an old man. If Ainge can't trade him, that $5 million buyout has to be at least a consideration.