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Kendrick Perkins eyes early February return 01.16.11 at 4:08 pm ET
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Kendrick Perkins

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.

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The trouble with injury timelines 01.11.11 at 5:21 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett is on the way back for the Celtics. (AP Image).

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.”

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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.

“You 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 »

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Injury updates on Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West 01.07.11 at 7:27 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett

The Celtics received some good news on the injury front Friday. Doc Rivers said Kevin Garnett would be back next week, possibly as early as Monday when they play the Rockets.

Kendrick Perkins announced that he was ready to return to practice next week, and said he was three weeks away from returning to game action. That could put him in line to play against the Lakers in late January. “It feels good,” Perkins said of his surgically-repaired knee. “I haven’t had any setbacks or swelling, which is weird.”

Perkins’ timetable was news to Rivers, but the coach has been been encouraged by reports of Perkins’ play in 3-on-3 games.

Then there is Delonte West who had his cast off earlier this week. He is still facing two weeks of rehabilitation on his wrist before he can return to the court. He is still looking at a February return. In the grand scheme of things West’s return may be even more important than Perkins because the Celtics are worried about the depth at point guard behind Rajon Rondo.

“The one thing we know that doesn’t work, it did record-wise, but it didn’t work I can guarantee you that, was the combination of [West] and Rondo out at the same time,” Rivers said. “It was not a good recipe for us, even though we won games, we can’t live that way long.”

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Irish Coffee: It’s a shame about Clifford Ray 01.04.11 at 12:03 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Either Peter Vecsey doesn’t like the Celtics, or the Celtics didn’t like former assistant coach Clifford Ray, because Vecsey detailed a pretty bizarre set of circumstances he claims led to Ray’s departure.

Here’s the nuts and bolts of the New York Post story:

Two weeks before the season began, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, who kept assistant Clifford Ray on hold the whole summer, informed him his services would no longer be needed.

An agreement eventually was signed by Ray, who was pressured by team president Danny Ainge to sign by a certain date (without getting lawyers involved) or forget it. Ray, the 1974-75 champion Warriors’ starting center, received $100,000 to go away quietly, enough to keep him and his family (including a 13-year-old son) going for a year or so.

Additionally, the Celtics approved medical attention for Ray, specifically for an MRSA infection he contracted in his foot several years ago while working (hence, the boot he wore so long) in Boston’s contaminated practice facility; Paul Pierce and Delonte West also got sick.

Had Ray not been in Minnesota last summer and gone, at the urging of his girlfriend, to the Mayo Clinic, doctors told him he was within days of having his foot amputated.

Rivers told Boston reporters he had no room in back of the bench for Ray because newly hired first assistant Lawrence Frank‘s deal allowed him to enlist a friend.

True enough. But the real reason Ray wasn’t invited back is because Rivers didn’t think he was healthy enough to get out on the floor and coach. Like the infection was Ray’s fault. Like Rivers didn’t know Ray was ailing for years. Like he couldn’t have reached that conclusion last June so that Ray would’ve had ample time to find work elsewhere.

Pierce and West both missed games in 2006 with infections in their finger and toe, respectively. Pierce also missed two weeks last season with an infection in his knee. Whether or not any of those incidents are related to what Vescey described as a “contaminated practice facility” is unclear.

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The latest on Kendrick Perkins return 12.21.10 at 3:44 pm ET
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Kendrick Perkins

For the first time since undergoing knee surgery, Kendrick Perkins was back on the court for a practice with his Celtics teammates. He went through the non-contact, or skeleton, phase of practice and participated in the team’s warmup and stretching drills. It was a small step for Perkins, but an important one.

“Perk looked good for what he did,” Doc Rivers said. “Actually dunked a couple of times today. He’s in great shape and he’s worked so hard, so that’s good.”

“I felt all right,” Perkins said. “My timing was a little bit off. I thought I did pretty well for my first time out.”

Perkins had an MRI last week, which went well, and he is scheduled to have another one in early January. He was fitted for a brace last week, which has allowed him to do more work on the court. Once he got the brace he went out and dunked, “Just to make sure I still can,” he joked. The plan is for him to continue with non-contact practices for the next few weeks and then he will be reevaluated.

As for a more definitive timetable, Perkins isn’t there yet. “It’s hard to say,” he said. “I feel good. I haven’t had any setbacks. Really I’m just trying to keep moving forward. I’m actually surprised about how good I did out there today.”

Interestingly, Perkins said his doctor had originally pegged late January as a possible return date while he had the All-Star break in mind. But all that is purely speculation right now, and while the Celtics were happy to have him back on the court in any capacity, Rivers sounded a more realistic note.

“If we can get anything out of Perk this year, we’ll be thrilled,” Rivers said. “It usually takes a year after the surgery to be completely confident.”

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Delonte West has surgery on broken wrist 11.30.10 at 1:28 pm ET
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Delonte West

Delonte West

Celtics guard Delonte West underwent surgery to repair a displaced right wrist fracture Tuesday morning at the New England Baptist Hospital, the team announced. The surgery was performed by Dr. Drew Terrono and Dr. Hervey Kimball and assisted by Celtics Team Physician Dr. Brian McKeon and was deemed successful by the team.

There is no immediate update on when West may be able to return to the Celtics who are now missing both he and Kendrick Perkins (knee surgery) for a significant period of time. Center Jermaine O’Neal is also out at least through this week although there is no update on when he will be back either.

The Celtics have said they won’t make a move to replace West and will rely on Von Wafer and rookie guard Avery Bradley to fill in the gap.

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