Green Street
NEED TO KNOW
Don't forget to follow Ben on Twitter.
A WEEI.com Celtics Blog
WEEI.com Blog Network

Irish Coffee: Shaq doing best Perk impression

11.15.10 at 10:30 am ET
By

Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Off the court, Shaquille O’Neal has been everything Celtics fans could’ve expected — and more. Sunday’s trip as Shaq-A-Claus to Toys-R-Us in Framingham and his performance of “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” at Cheers in downtown Boston are just two examples.

On the court? Forget Shaqeeta. O’Neal’s best impression has been of Kendrick Perkins. Shaq has been as good a replacement for the injured Perkins as the Celtics could’ve found.

Through 10 games, the C’s (8-2) are exactly where they were with Perkins in 2009-10. Defensively, with Perkins in the lineup, the 2009-10 Celtics ranked fifth in the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions (103.8); this fall, they rank sixth (101.7). With Perk in ’09-10, the C’s ranked 25th in rebounding differential (-1.5); this season, they’re 16th (+0.3).

Sure, some of that success can be attributed to Kevin Garnett‘s health, but Shaq should get some credit, too, as a worthy replacement for Perkins in five starts so far this season.

Take a look at the 2010-11 per-minute averages for Shaq vs. Perk’s numbers in 2009-10 (bolded statistics indicate an advantage) …

  • ’10-11 SHAQ: 0.46 points, 0.27 rebounds, 0.03 assists, 0.02 blocks, 0.02 steals, 0.09 turnovers and 0.18 personal fouls
  • ’09-10 PERK: 0.37 points, 0.28 rebounds, 0.04 assists, 0.06 blocks, 0.01 steals, 0.08 turnovers and 0.10 personal fouls

However, Shaq has not been capable of matching Perkins’ minutes. Shaq has averaged 21.2 minutes in his five starts this season – 76.8 percent of the 27.6 minutes per game Perk played last year. Even playing 6.4 fewer minutes per game, Shaq has been able to produce a solid Perkins impersonation, as evidenced by their per-game averages …

  • ’10-11 SHAQ: 9.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.4 steals, 1.8 turnovers and 3.8 personal fouls
  • ’09-10 PERK: 10.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.7 blocks, 0.3 steals, 2.1 turnovers and 2.8 personal fouls

Essentially, because Shaq has played so well, when he plays the C’s only need to make up 6.4 minutes of Perkins’ production at the center spot in order to provide some semblance of the starting five that has reached the NBA Finals in two of the last three seasons. It’s safe to say that in spurts Glen Davis, Semih Erden and Jermaine O’Neal have been able to pick up that slack.

So far, at least, the Celtics have not missed Perkins, especially when Shaq has started in his place. That means two things for the Celtics going forward: 1) If Shaq remains healthy — and that’s a big if — it will allow Perkins to take his time regaining full strength; and 2) With both Shaq and Perk, the C’s could be a better team than the one that reached the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals.

Boston Celtics' Kendrick Perkins, left, sits with teammate Shaquille O'Neal during practice in Waltham, Mass. Monday, Oct. 25, 2010. The Celtics open the season Tuesday against the Miami Heat.

Shaquille O'Neal (right) and Kendrick Perkins could form a dangerous combination. (AP)

JERMAINE O’NEAL & PERKINS SHARE THE LOVE

Prior to Jermaine O’Neal’s arrival in Boston, he and Perkins weren’t exactly best buddies. However, the moment they became teammates, any beef between them fell by the wayside. Jessica Camerato detailed their relationship this season …

“I just wanted to let him know it’s on the court, it’s not outside of that,” explained Perkins. “I’m a great teammate, but when you’re on the other team, I’m really going at your head. But I wanted to show him there isn’t any tension outside of basketball, no beef or nothing, and just kind of welcome him with open arms.”

I especially enjoyed Doc Rivers‘ take, which explains in part how quickly the C’s have been able to incorporate new bodies into a championship-contending system …

“We don’t like anybody on the other team,” Rivers said. “The outside guy is always a little iffy when he comes to our team, especially if we’ve had it in with him. But then they find out, wow this is the greatest group. They get along great. So that’s what’s happened already. … Once you’re on our team, you’re part of our group.”

As Shaq said in the same article, “Here there’s just one language — win, win, win, championship, championship, championship. And that’s all that we talk about.”

2010-11 HEAT CAN’T MIRROR ’07-08 CELTICS

While the Celtics have seamlessly incorporated new talent into an already existing system, the Miami Heat has struggled to establish a new system with all their new talent. In a Miami Herald piece, Rivers compared the Heat’s task with the one he faced three seasons ago …

“It’s the exact same thing, and I think everyone goes through it to some extent,” said Rivers, who added that this year’s Celtics are experiencing similar problems. “The more guys you add — the more key guys you add — the first year for us, our Big 3 were in each other’s way at times early because no one wanted to do too much.”

Rivers said he had to have “a big summit early in the year” to explain everyone’s role on the team. [Kevin] Garnett was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year that season.

“Kevin was so key to us — and in some ways, [Chris] Bosh is doing the same things — but Kevin can take 20 shots or one shot and it won’t affect his day at all,” Rivers said.

“He’s unselfish to a fault at times.”

Rivers said the 2007-08 championship team began the season with a slightly different dynamic than the Heat because the Celtics’ stars were older and “they were at the point in their careers where they had to solidify their careers and that made it easier for me.”

I think Rivers was being kind when he said Bosh is doing the same things this season as KG did in 2007-08. There’s simply no way Bosh is going to be the Defensive Player of the Year this season.

In his weekly mailbag, Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen took on the same issue. In his eyes, the C’s two straight victories over the Heat this season should help the Big Three forego their egos in favor of the unselfishness that allowed the Celtics to thrive three years ago …

This isn’t about improving their skills; it’s about deepening their wisdom. When Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen united in Boston, they understood intuitively the demands of coach Doc Rivers to alter their games in order to fit together, because each of them had gone year after year after year of losing in the playoffs. They were all in their 30s and they were ready to change.

But these players in Miami haven’t been humbled enough in their previous careers — if they had been forced to accept that humility, they never would have gone upon that stage and behaved so naively last July.

DOC NOT A FAN OF TWITTER

Speaking of the spectacle that was Miami’s Big Three this offseason, Rivers commented on Pierce’s “It’s been a pleasure to bring my talents to South Beach” tweet following the C’s victory this past Thursday night …

“I didn’t get laughs out of that stuff; I really don’t like that stuff,” said Rivers. “I don’t care one way or another but I don’t think you need to say anything. It’s a long season. It’s a good (dig) but I’m not a fan of all that stuff.”

I like how Rivers says he didn’t like it, and then says it’s a good dig. He may not be encouraging it, but he’s certainly not discouraging it, either.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jermaine O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins, NBA
2013 NBA Draft Board
2014 NBA Draft
Celtics Headlines
NBA Headlines