Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
It’s time for Kendrick Perkins  to start.
Despite Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge‘s claim on WEEI’s Big Show last week that he doesn’t think it matters who starts between Shaquille O’Neal  and Perkins, the man who hasn’t lost a playoff series starting alongside Paul Pierce , Kevin Garnett , Ray Allen  and Rajon Rondo  has proven within five games that he deserves his spot back.
In Perkins’ first three games since returning from ACL surgery this past offseason, the Celtics were better off with either O’Neal or Semih Erden starting the first and third quarters. The numbers back it up. The C’s outscored their opponents by a total of three points to start each half before Perkins entered the game against the Cavaliers , Blazers and Suns. They were subsequently outscored by a total of 11 points with Perkins on the floor in those three games.
However, in the last two games — victories over the Lakers and Kings — the C’s have outscored their opponents by 22 from the moment Perkins entered the game in the first and third quarters to the time somebody substituted for him. That’s nine points better than they were in those two contests with O’Neal on the floor to start each half.
In his first five games this season, Perkins’ minutes have steadily risen to the mid-20s, culminating in a near double-double against the Kings. His performance Tuesday night marked the first game he vastly outperformed the C’s starting center.
Take a look at Perkins’ progression upon entering each half since his return compared to the Celtics’ starting center that night (each player’s plus/minus statistics are in parentheses):
CELTICS 112, CAVALIERS 95
Semih (+4): 17 minutes, 2 points, 8 rebounds, 1 turnovers, 4 fouls, 0 assists, 2 blocks
Perk (+5): 17 minutes, 7 points, 6 rebounds, 0 turnovers, 2 fouls, 3 assists, 0 blocks
3:58 into first quarter: Perkins enters for Semih (+5)
9:24 into first quarter: Luke Harangody enters for Perkins (-7)
(side note , courtesy of the Akron Beacon Journal: “The most recent time that the Cavs led in a game was 25-24 against the Celtics with 1:54 remaining in the first quarter — a span of more than 15 quarters and a total of more than 180 game minutes ago.”)
Halftime: Celtics 67, Cavaliers 45
6:30 into third quarter: Perkins enters for Erden (-3)
2:04 into fourth quarter: Harangody enters for Perkins (+1)
CELTICS 88, BLAZERS 78
Semih (+8): 17 minutes, 6 points, 4 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 0 assists, 0 blocks
Perk (+/-0): 21 minutes, 10 points, 9 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 2 fouls, 0 assists, 1 block
4:59 into first quarter: Perkins enters for Erden (+1)
4:30 into second quarter: Erden enters for Perkins (-2)
Halftime: Celtics 41, Blazers 37
2:30 into third quarter: Perkins enters for Erden (+/-0)
11:03 into third quarter: Erden enters for Perkins (+2)
SUNS 88, CELTICS 71
Shaq (+/-0): 15 minutes, 5 points, 4 rebounds, 0 turnovers, 3 fouls, 1 assist, 2 blocks
Perk (-1): 21 minutes, 2 points, 4 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls, 0 assists, 0 blocks
1:34 into first quarter: Perkins enters for O’Neal (-1)
5:23 into first quarter: Glen Davis  enters for Perkins (-1)
Halftime: Suns 49, Celtics 35 (Celtics -14)
6:00 into third quarter: Perkins enters for O’Neal (+1)
11:54 into third quarter: Nate Robinson  enters for Perkins (-4)
CELTICS 109, LAKERS 96
Shaq (-4): 13 minutes, 0 points, 6 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 5 fouls, 0 assists, 2 blocks
Perk (+13): 28 minutes, 2 points, 6 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls, 2 assists, 0 blocks
5:36 into first quarter: Perkins enters for O’Neal (+3)
5:13 into second quarter: Kevin Garnett enters for Perkins (+4)
Halftime: Lakers 54, Celtics 50 (Celtics -4)
2:41 into third quarter: Perkins enters for O’Neal (+5)
11:59 into third quarter: Ray Allen enters for Perkins (+4)
CELTICS 95, KINGS 90
Shaq (-2): 16 minutes, 3 points, 4 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls, 0 assists, 1 block
Perk (+7): 25 minutes, 8 points, 10 rebounds, 0 turnovers, 2 fouls, 1 assist, 0 blocks
5:17 into first quarter: Perkins enters for O’Neal (+1)
2:23 into second quarter: O’Neal enters for Perkins (+3)
Halftime: Kings 54, Celtics 45
5:25 into third quarter: Perkins enters for O’Neal (+4)
5:17 into fourth quarter: Garnett enters for Perkins (+11)
In the past two games, the Celtics are clearly better with Perkins on the floor. So, wouldn’t they rather put their best foot forward to start each half? The earlier the C’s can put teams away, the more all their starters (including Perkins) can rest late in games. The more their starters can rest, the better they are for the playoffs, right?
Yup, it’s time. Put him in the starting lineup on Friday night against the Mavericks.
SHAQ: ‘IT’S SOMEONE ELSE’S TURN’
If the Celtics do re-insert Perkins into the starting lineup on Friday night, don’t expect any gripes from O’Neal. Among his (always) fantastic quotes in a conversation  with Yahoo’s Marc J. Spears was this:
‘You can’t beat the system. You have to join it. Even if I could, it wouldn’t be business-ly advantageous to act like that. So no, the system is always right. So whatever the system says you do, you just do it.
‘I just enjoy still traveling, going to cities and having a good time. If Perk’s going to be in the starting lineup and I’m coming off the bench that’s fine with me.’
While we’re at it, here are the remainder of Shaq’s insights throughout the interview:
On his impact: ‘I don’t worry about my legacy. I look at it like this: There are certain guys that have legacies, and I’ve [expletive] tripled and quadrupled what the [expletive] they did, like Bill Walton . That’s how I look at it. Real talk. Everybody has a pen, so everybody’s going to say otherwise. But I know guys that got one [championship] and they got $60,000 speaking gigs off what they did 30 years ago. My legacy is straight. I don’t worry about it.”
- On limited minutes: ‘It’s hard not being in charge for me. It really is. But I got to accept it. This is a good team. I’m not the only Hall-of-Famer hopeful here. If I was on a [expletive] team, I’d be pissed right now. Two points? I would have [expletive] somebody up in the locker room.’
On supporting role: ‘I started waning my CEO skills in Miami when I let Flash [Dwyane Wade ] take over. Then with LeBron [James] in Cleveland, I just laid back. In this world that we live in everyone wants the younger guys, the younger guys. So when I had my time, my span, I did it my way. I did it dominant. Nobody has done it more flamboyantly. And now, you know, it’s someone else’s turn.’
- On retirement: ‘I’ve prepared myself for [the end of his career] when I came in. For like the first 10 years my father would tell me, ‘You need to own some [stuff].’ I said, ‘Why? I make a lot of money.’ He said, ‘What if you hurt your knee or something?’ From then I’ve been in business mode. So I’ve been thinking about the day I’m done playing for a long time. And I’ll be fine. It will be real easy, real easy, real easy. Too easy.’
On statistics: ‘Whatever they do to get me my shots, I’ll shoot at a high clip. But it’s not something I worry about. It’s all about winning, baby. Stats don’t matter. None of that [expletive] matters to me. I’ve been there and done that. I’m right behind my father, Wilt Chamberlain . I’m cool with points. I’m good. If I pass him up, I do. If I don’t, I’m cool.’
O’Neal trails Chamberlain by just 873 career points. If he stays healthy and plays one more year with the Celtics, Shaq should pass Wilt at some point next season.
WALTON: CELTICS ‘GAVE ME LIFE BACK’
Speaking of quotable basketball players, did you think a day would go by with Shaq talking about Walton without the latter reciprocating? Following his three-game stint as part-time Celtics broadcaster in replacement of Tommy Heinsohn, here’s what Walton told  the Herald’s Steve Bulpett:
‘As great as Shaq is and what he will mean to the Celtics in terms of him putting them into an even greater echelon — as valuable as Shaq is to the Celtics, the Celtics are so much more valuable to him. He will ride the rest of his life on the joy, the pride, the celebration and the exultation of what it is to be a Boston Celtic.
“It was tough for Celtic Nation for all those years between Larry [Bird] and when KG and Ray showed up, but the Celtics are back. And to me, to be on such a special team at the end with such remarkable fans is a gift.’
Any time Walton talks Celtics, it’s too good to ignore, so here’s the remainder of his conversation with Bulpett:
- On 2010-11 C’s: ‘The Celtics cannot rest. The championships are so tough, so fragile. They have to use the Laker game as a springboard and go on a huge run. And the bench is so important. The bench has to play well so the starters don’t have to play. The Celtics are more than capable of being a great team, more than capable of being a championship team. They played like great champions against the Lakers.’
- On NBA favorites: ‘The Lakers and the Celtics are the two best teams — and whoever has homecourt advantage is going to win the championship between those two teams.’
- On road trip: ‘The Portland game they played just well enough to win. In Phoenix, they made Marcin Gortat look like one of the top 10 players in the history of basketball. And then [Sunday in LA] is one of the great victories in Celtic history. I’ve been watching Paul Pierce since high school, and this was as great a game as he’s ever played. He controlled the game, and Doc Rivers  once again had his way with Phil Jackson .”
- On Kevin Garnett: “KG is one of four players who’s going to determine this year’s championship. It’s going to be Kobe [Bryant], LeBron, Manu [Ginobili] and KG.’
- On broadcasting games: ‘The Celtics, they didn’t give me my career back. They gave me my life back. And now they just did it one more time with the thrill and privilege of sitting in Tommy Heinsohn’s seat for three games.’
Um, how many people would watch a weekly conversation with Walton, Heinsohn and Shaq? WEEI.com would probably explode.
ALL-TIME CELTICS ALL-STAR GAME COACHES
As a result of the Celtics’ victory against the Kings on Tuesday night, Rivers will coach the Eastern Conference in the NBA All-Star game for the second time in four seasons (it would have been three if not for the “Riley Rule” that prevents consecutive coaching appearances):
Rivers is the fourth Celtics coach to lead the Eastern Conference at the All-Star game more than once. Here are the six C’s coaches to sit on the bench at an All-Star game, the years they participated and their records in the contests:
- Red Auerbach  (1957-1967): 7-4
- Tom Heinsohn (1972-1974 & 1976): 2-2
- K.C. Jones (1984-1987): 2-2
- Bill Fitch (1982): 1-0
- Chris Ford (1991): 1-0
- Doc Rivers (2008): 1-0
Those guys are a combined 14-8 and haven’t lost since the 1980s as All-Star coaches. That’s a lot of pressure for Rivers. Or not.
LAKERS STILL PANICKING
It keeps getting better for Celtics fans who are reveling in the aftermath of their team’s 109-96 victory against the Lakers on Sunday. The most recent “panic mode” signals came on Tuesday from the two great greatest Lakers of all-time, Kobe Bryant  and Magic Johnson .
Here’s what Bryant told  the Orange County Register prior to the Lakers’ win over the Rockets:
“Even when [Pau Gasol ] was in Memphis and he was the go-to guy, he was always very nice. Very white swan. I need him to be black swan. Be an [expletive] sometimes.”
As an aside, in that OC Register piece, the columnist made the claim that “as many really good players as the Celtics have, they do not have any one player better than Gasol, much less Bryant.” Interesting. I find it hard to believe that Gasol is a better basketball player than Pierce, Garnett or Rajon Rondo, much less all three.
Back to the Lakers drama: Here’s what Magic told  ESPN.com in the wake of the Lakers’ two-game losing streak:
“We have to do something. The Lakers are not responding and two things showed me that — the Miami Heat  Christmas game and then the Boston Celtics  game. When you don’t get up for your two biggest games during the season and you have flat performances, then you have to start looking at trade possibilities to improve the team and bring some energy to the team and bring some new life to the team.”
There may be a storm in Boston, but it’s not so sunny in Los Angeles, either.
PIERCE STILL CHALLENGING ALLEN
After Pierce’s recent tweet that he wants to challenge Allen to an individual 3-point shooting contest during the All-Star festivities, he’s not backing down. Here’s what the Celtics captain told  The Globe:
- ‘He’s the 3-point king, but I’m the 3-point champ.’’
- ‘I’m just trying to go against the best. I’m just trying to figure out who the best shooters are of this era, and I’m just trying to challenge them. Ray’s definitely one of them. Who else? Dirk Nowitzki ? Peja Stojakovic? I want them all to come out. This is something you might want to see.’’
- ‘You get two players of that caliber, it’s meant for a worldwide stage. You don’t just put Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather  in Eagle High School gym to fight.’’
As confident as Pierce is about this potential showdown, Rivers wouldn’t side with his captain:
‘I’m probably going with Ray in any shooting contest, but they do it a lot, and they pretty much are split when they play. They’re both pretty good shooters, especially when they’re by themselves. Then they’re really good shooters.’’
If the NBA doesn’t make this part of the All-Star weekend, why don’t the Celtics just put it on themselves during an off-day at TD Garden? Charge fans $5 a piece, and give the money to charity. Who’d be opposed to that?