It happened ahead of schedule, but Kendrick Perkins  is once again a starting center. Shaquille O’Neal  won’t play Friday night against the Mavericks, and he may not play Sunday against the Magic either as he deals with his latest ailment — an inflamed Achilles.
With Shaq out, Perkins will return to the starting lineup just five games into his comeback from knee surgery. The move was inevitable, but the timetable is a little quick for Celtics  coach Doc Rivers . “I wanted to wait a little bit, honestly,” Rivers said. “It is what it is.”
Rivers is hoping to have Shaq back by Thursday when the Celtics play the Lakers (the Celtics also have a game Monday in Charlotte). Asked if Perkins was now the starter for good, Rivers wouldn’t commit one way or another. “I don’t know yet,” Rivers said. “We were probably going to start Perk after the All-Star break anyway, so we’ll see.”
Rivers has been pleased with Perkins’ production, but he still wants to monitor his minutes. It’s not the overall count that concerns the coach, but the extended stretches that worries him. Rivers would like to have Perkins on the floor for no more than seven minutes at a time. The depth behind Perkins includes Glen Davis  and Semih Erden.
As for Shaq, this is the latest leg ailment to bother the veteran big man. There has been a hip injury, a calf strain and another one described as a “fibula head” strain. Also, as Rivers likes to point out, Shaq’s 38 years old. Rivers doesn’t think this latest injury will last long, but he also said he’s not sure how long Shaq will be out.