Kendrick Perkins  was the happiest person in the Garden on Tuesday night as he made a successful return to game action in 16 minutes of the Celtics ‘ 112-95 romp over the Cavaliers . Perkins came in with 8:02 left in the first quarter to replace Semih Erden and played his first five minutes of the season.
Perkins – who had reconstructive ACL surgery on his right knee – scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds in his first game since injuring the knee in Game 6 of the NBA finals  last June.
“I’ve got to play a few more games first. I surprised myself on a few plays today, just finishing, a couple rebounds, it felt real good,” he said. “I know I can do better, I could do more. I was mad at myself, I didn’t block any shots today. I was little winded and little off-key. I’ll get better.”
Perkins also admitted he was very tired after the game since he didn’t sleep on Monday night because he was so excited. He spent a good portion of the night in Waltham at the team’s practice facility.
“I didn’t sleep [Monday] night,” Perkins added. “I actually left the gym [Tuesday] morning about 1 o’clock and went to the gym [Monday] night at 10 so that’s probably why I’m tired right now.”
He certainly got the wake-up call when Doc Rivers  called out “Perk!” after Semih Erden picked up two fouls in the first four minutes Tuesday.
‘I thought he was terrific,” Rivers said. “I thought as the game went on his timing got better. I thought defensively he was terrific from the start. Just communication, we were loud again defensively which was nice. You could hear him and Kevin [Garnett ] barking orders defensively and that makes us really good.’
Rivers is not expecting to throw Perk back into the starting lineup just because he felt good running up and down the court – and especially not against the likes of the Trail Blazers, Suns and Lakers.
‘It’s the same, about the same amount of minutes,” Rivers said, referring to the 16 he played Tuesday. “He actually probably played one or two more minutes than we anticipated. He wanted to stay in. But I think that’ll be it for a while, between 16 and 18 minutes.’
But the best compliment Rivers paid Perk was about his work ethic, the one trait that explains his remarkable return – like Wes Welker  – just seven months after blowing out his ACL.
“That was awesome,” Rivers said of the 20-second standing ovation as Perkins made his way to the scorer’s table for the first time. “Listen, there’s people in the crowd that work hard every day, blue collar, and Perk identifies with all those people. If you are a guy that works 9-5, you’ve got to love Perk because that’s who he is.’
And no, there were no references to feet by Perk in his post-game address to reporters. Well, at least he’s off on the right foot.