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Fast Break: Perkins, Celtics hand Cavs 18th straight loss 01.25.11 at 9:55 pm ET
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In his first action since Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals, Kendrick Perkins came off the bench to a standing ovation and contributed seven points and six rebounds in just over 17 minutes during a 112-95 blowout of the Cavaliers Tuesday night in Boston.

The Celtics (34-10) projected Perkins would play 12-15 minutes in his return, but he exceeded expectations all night. Of course, it helped that the C’s were playing Cleveland (8-37), losers of 18 straight.

Paul Pierce netted 24 points in just 23:58 on the floor. Shortly after coming down awkwardly on a shot attempt and moving gingerly on his right leg up and down the floor a few times, he exited the game with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter.

Ray Allen knocked down a trio of 3-pointers to close the game to 20 between he and Reggie Miller for the NBA’s all-time 3-point record.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Perk’s return: Even in a rusty 15 minutes a night, Perkins makes a huge difference in the Celtics lineup — especially with both Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal sidelined with leg injuries and the team in desperate need of big bodies.

Just under four minutes into the game, with starter Semih Erden picking up his second foul in the first 3:58, the Celtics turned to Perkins. And 35 seconds later, after a standing ovation, Perkins proved himself, converting a layup plus the foul. He ran the floor and hit the boards hard on both ends of the floor — a cruel reminder of what might have been had he played Game 7 of the finals last season.

Pierce starts fierce: Playing the entire first quarter, Pierce knocked down 6-of-8 shots to score 17 of the team’s 34 points in the opening 12 minutes. During that span, he also exchanged words with Cleveland’s Joey Graham, whoever that is.

The Celtics captain scored 24 points by halftime and left the game midway through the third quarter. He stayed on the bench for the rest of the game, without treatment, so there should be little concern about his slight limp before his exit.

The bench showed up: Given his recent struggles, the Celtics had to be pleased to see Nate Robinson knock down 3-of-8 3-point attempts. He led the charge, as the C’s got at least seven points from all five available guys off the bench (including Perkins). Glen Davis (11 points) and Von Wafer (10) also reached double figures.

Their collective performance allowed Doc Rivers to rest Pierce, Allen (25:16) and Kevin Garnett (17:45) — although, in somewhat of a strange move, Rajon Rondo played almost 44 minutes.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Slow start on defense: Allowing the worst team in the league to score 26 first-quarter points and shoot 53 percent from the field for the opening 12 minutes isn’t what the Celtics were looking for when they welcomed the Cavaliers to town.

Cleveland actually owned a 23-21 lead late in the first quarter. It took a 21-5 that stretched into the middle of the second quarter for the Celtics to take control.

‘Big Baby’ not a happy camper: When Glen Davis picked up his second foul with seven minutes to play in the half, he let his frustration be known as he returned to the bench. After he was whistled for a third personal a few minutes later, the referees heard it from louder this time — as he picked up a technical, too.

Not much: When the game is in control from the early portion of the second quarter on, and the Celtics cruised to victory, it’d be nitpicking to find too much wrong with their effort … other than Pierce’s rendition of Enrique Iglesias‘ “I Like It” on the Jumbotron. Then again, Enrique Iglesias’ version isn’t much better.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Kendrick Perkins, NBA
Welcome back, Kendrick Perkins at 8:06 pm ET
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After missing the first 43 games of the season rehabbing a torn ACL in his right knee, Kendrick Perkins took the court for the first time with his Celtics teammates on Tuesday night as they played the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Perkins injured the knee in the first half of Game 6 of the 2010 NBA finals in Los Angeles as the Celtics – without their starting center and defensive, shot-blocking presence in the low post – lost Games 6 and 7, falling just short of a record-18th NBA title.

Three different players – Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal and Semih Erden – have started at center this season and while Perkins is coming off the bench, his return Tuesday certainly bolsters the depth at that position.

Shaq had started 17 straight and 33 overall before injuring his right hip on Friday against the Jazz. Erden has started the last two and now six overall. Jermaine O’Neal has started the remaining five times in the low post.

Doc Rivers would not commit to when Perk will eventually return to the starting lineup and until then, it’s likely to be Erden getting most of the minutes.

Perkins returned to game action with 8:02 left in the first quarter when Erden picked up two quick fouls. He lasted until 2:37 left, giving him five minutes, 25 seconds of continuous action. He collected a lay-up, missed a free throw, grabbed a rebound, dished out two assists and picked up a foul.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jermaine O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins, NBA
Kendrick Perkins returns at 7:24 pm ET
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About an hour before the Celtics were to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kendrick Perkins rolled through the locker room and found about 20 reporters congregating by his locker. Someone asked if he had lobbied coach Doc Rivers to play Tuesday night, 10 days ahead of his scheduled target date of Feb. 4. “I probably did,” he said with a smile as he tried to deflect the obvious: He’s back.

Perkins returns about seven months after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during Game 6 of the NBA finals and about six months after having surgery. It’s been quite a turnaround for Perkins, who had his first live practice on Jan. 16. As late as Monday, Rivers said he wouldn’t rush Perkins back, even with injuries keeping both Shaquille O’Neal (hip) and Jermaine O’Neal (knee) out of the lineup.

Later that night, team trainer Eddie Lacerte and team doctor Brian McKeon told Rivers that Perkins was ready.

“I didn’€™t think he’€™d play on this [upcoming west coast] trip, but it wasn’€™t a big surprise when they walked in,” Rivers said. “When they came in together I knew what they were coming in for, so I was all for it.”

Perkins won’t start yet and Rivers said he was on a restriction on 12-16 minutes. “It’€™s going to take Perk some time,” Rivers said. “Listen, you don’€™t miss the amount of games that he’€™s missed and have the injury that he has and think that because he’€™s going to play tonight he’€™s going to be the Perk that you saw the last time.”

Still, with the injuries to the O’Neal’s (Shaq may return Friday, Jermaine O’Neal is out until after the All-Star break) his return has become an important component of the second half of the season. Rivers has not been able to develop a bench with all the injuries affecting various members of the second unit.

For now, Perkins adds depth at a position that needs some, but once he’s able to work his back into the starting lineup he’ll allow Rivers the flexibility to use Shaq and Glen Davis off the bench.

“It’€™s just another piece we’€™re adding is the way I’€™m looking at it,” Rivers said. “That’€™s great for us. The healthier we can get, the better we can get, the more consistent we can become and we can start rolling. It’€™s tough to grow as a team when half your team, or at least your bench, is not playing.”

Perkins’ teammates were obviously thrilled with the development. They have been impressed with how hard he’s worked. Perkins said last week that he has lost eight pounds and he appears trimmer and in better shape than when he was injured.

“I’€™m just hoping he doesn’€™t foul out in those 16 minutes,” Rivers joked. “Which is very likely.”

Read More: Jermaine O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins, Shaquille O'Neal,
The Celtics won’t rush Kendrick Perkins back 01.24.11 at 4:14 pm ET
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It has to be tempting for the Celtics to see Kendrick Perkins going through live practice sessions and think they need to get him back on the floor now. With Jermaine O’Neal out four weeks for rest and rehab on his injured knee and Shaquille O’Neal likely to miss at least the next two games with a sore hip, the team’s depth at center is once again down to Semih Erden and Glen Davis.

That’s enough to get through a game here or there, and that’s the way the Celtics are going to play it because they are taking the longview on Perkins’ return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Doc Rivers acknowledged Monday that Perkins has already begun lobbying to come back sooner, but it’s falling on deaf ears.

“Honestly, he wants to play tomorrow,” Rivers said. “He’€™s already approached me about that. The only consideration is when [trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] and Dr. [Brian] McKeon say you can play him. I’€™m not going to listen to Perk, I can tell you that.”

Perkins has targeted Feb. 4 against the Mavericks as his potential return date and the Celtics have five games left between now and then. They play the Cavs Tuesday at the Garden and then head out for a four-game west coast trip.

It’s unlikely that Shaq will play in the first game Thursday at Portland for a number of reasons — it’s a long flight and it’s the first of a back-to-back with Phoenix on Friday. “I think [Shaq will] play in at least one or two of the games for sure, but I don’€™t [know] that positively.”

The Celtics have made it this far being patient with injuries. They can afford to wait a little longer.

Read More: Jermaine O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins, Shaquille O'Neal,
Kendrick Perkins eyes early February return 01.16.11 at 4:08 pm ET
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All of a sudden Kendrick Perkins‘ return from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament has gone from a luxury to a necessity. With Jermaine O’Neal contemplating knee surgery of his own and Shaquille O’Neal a day-to-day proposition, the Celtics depth at center is becoming a concern.

Perkins reached an important milestone Sunday afternoon when he was able to go through an entire practice. He said that he is targeting Feb. 4, when the Celtics play the Mavericks at the Garden as a return date. Without Shaq, who slipped on ice and strained his adductor muscle in his right leg, Perkins returned to his customary position alongside Kevin Garnett in the starting five.

“It did feel good to be out there again,” Perkins said. “We did some good things together. I didn’€™t have a sub today so I was a little tired, but it was cool.”

“Phenomenal,” Doc Rivers said. “He looked great. He’€™s in great shape. Today was the first time all year that we actually had a real first unit on the floor. It was another level because they could run anything they wanted.”

Perkins wasted little time getting his menacing groove back. He leveled Marquis Daniels with a pick, which sent Daniels to the sidelines after his back tightened up. Daniels sat out the rest of practice, but said he thought he would be fine to play Monday against Orlando.

“I hit him on a flat screen,” Perkins said. “I told him, ‘€˜My bad,’€™ but he said it was a good pick so it wasn’€™t illegal, but I did hit him on a flat screen.”

From outward appearances, Perkins looks like he’s in the best shape of his life although there’s a big difference between regular shape and basketball shape, particularly when it comes to conditioning. While he has been out Perkins has lost about eight pounds to get down to 272. The eight pounds may not seem like much, but it makes a big difference for a big man playing on a surgically-repaired knee.

“I was just scared of gaining weight,” Perkins said. “I kind of starved myself a little bit. It was hard. Once they told me I could get in the weight room, I really got in the weight room.”

Despite the brace on his knee, Perkins said he’s not thinking about it while he’s out on the court. “I’€™ve never been scared of injuries or anything like that,” he said. “So, I feel like if it’€™s going to happen, it’€™s going to happen.”

As with all their injured players, the Celtics won’t rush anyone back before they’re ready. While it may be tempting to push Perkins back even quicker if Jermaine O’Neal does have surgery, they won’t go down that road. An early February return would be ambitious enough.

Read More: Kendrick Perkins,
The trouble with injury timelines 01.11.11 at 5:21 pm ET
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Celtics president Danny Ainge doesn’t like to give timelines on when injured players will return to the court and there’s a good reason for that: Things change.

Take Kevin Garnett, for example. Late last week Doc Rivers suggested that Garnett would be back Monday or maybe Wednesday. That forecast no longer appears likely to materialize after the Celtics went through practice without Garnett on Tuesday.

“He’€™s just not ready yet,” Rivers said. “He’€™s close, very close. I think he wants to play, but I just don’€™t think he should play yet.”

That was probably the right call. Why take a chance in mid-January if you’re not 100 percent certain? But if he doesn’t play by Friday, expect a whole host of questions about the nature of Garnett’s injury, which has been described as a calf strain. Without the timeline, this is just a common-sense delay.

Then there’s Kendrick Perkins, who announced that he was ready to return to full-contact practice and would be back in three weeks. But when the Celtics held practice, Perkins was kept on the sidelines by Rivers and Dr. Brian McKeon for everything expect skeleton drills and no-contact running.

It was the team’s first practice in weeks and Rivers wanted it to be live and physical. In other words, it wasn’t a good environment for Perkins to take his first contact since injuring his knee in Game 6 of the NBA finals.

“We went pretty hard so I didn’€™t want him out there in that,” Rivers said. “We did a lot of contact stuff and I didn’€™t want him to be a part of it. It was a good practice actually. I knew we were going to do a lot of live, hard rebounding stuff. Too many bodies. Too many feet. I didn’€™t want him involved.”

Perkins, who will be kept out of live practice for the rest of the week, said he was disappointed, but he understood. “A little bit, but at the same time I know it’€™s in my best interest,” he said when asked if he was frustrated by the delay. “If they say one more week, I can go one more week.”

Still, Perkins wouldn’t back off his ultimate timeline to return in three weeks. If he can’t go by the time the Celtics play the Lakers on Jan. 30, then it will feel like a setback, he said — even though he is only six months removed from knee surgery.

Of all the injured Celtics, Delonte West has offered no set timetable. He had his hard cast taken off his broken right wrist, but he’s still not able to do anything basketball-related with his right hand like catch, shoot or dribble a ball. He also said he has trouble turning doorknobs in his house and carrying groceries.

In the meantime, West said he has watched Youtube videos of “karate masters” (his term) to learn how to absorb contact in other parts of his body when he falls. He also went to Home Depot and bought a bucket, which he filled with rice. He sticks his hand in the bucket and churns. (Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton did the same routine for years.)

“It works too,” he said. “Try it man.”

West was vague when pressed for a return date, which was smart because he simply doesn’t know yet. His next step is to be able to handle the basketball with his right hand, which he hopes will happen next week. Ultimately he knows that his body will tell him when it’s time.

“I’€™d rather let it heal naturally,” West said. “With the rice.”

Read More: Delonte West, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett,
With an eye on big picture, Doc Rivers admits ‘I don’t like where we’re at right now’ at 2:16 am ET
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Sure, Monday was a very distasteful and bitter pill to swallow for the Celtics. But really what concerned Doc Rivers afterward was how he felt his team approached the game.

With or without Kevin Garnett and with or without the high-scoring Kevin Martin in the game for the Rockets, Rivers felt his team was capable of a whole lot better than they showed in a 108-102 loss at TD Garden.

But the trademark defense that has been a staple of these championship-driven Celtics has not been there in the last week, and Rivers fears that if they start falling in love with scoring instead of doing the dirty work, they’ll lose something a lot more important – home court advantage in the NBA playoffs.

Don’t look now but not only are the Spurs putting some distance between themselves and the Celtics – who fell to 28-9 – but the Miami Heat have, in the space of about three weeks, caught up to them with a torrid winning streak.

If the Celtics aren’t careful, they not only might have to win an NBA Finals Game 7 on the road like last year in LA but they may have to do the same thing against Miami just to get there.

“To me, you can see them thinking about the individual game and not the ramifications of the entire season,” Rivers said of his team. “And playing Game 7 on the road. And hell, not just in the Finals if you make it there, but in the playoffs. In the East, which is going to be difficult. This year’€™s not like last year where you can coast. You don’€™t have home court this year, you could go home.

‘€œYou know especially at home, I think we need to really take advantage of games where their best player isn’€™t playing, guys coming off injury,” captain Paul Pierce added. “These games mean a lot down the road, and but at the same time, they’€™re going to suit up and play, and we got to understand that nothing is given to us cause their down a man, or they’€™ve been struggling for most of the year. We got to put our work boots on and come with our A game, we’€™re not taking advantage of this, there are a lot of games that we’€™re letting slip away that we’€™re supposed to win’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Game 7 NBA Finals, Houston Rockets
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