|Rhythm key for Perkins||01.14.09 at 7:27 pm ET|
Before Wednesday night’s game against the New Jersey Nets, Kendrick Perkins broke a sweat working on his post moves. He banked shots over Patrick O’Bryant and then sprinted down the court at the orders of Sam Cassell. This would seem like just another night, except Perkins is injured. That isn’t stopping the big man, though, from keeping his rhythm.
‘I’m just trying to stay on top of my conditioning,’ Perkins said prior to the game. ‘I don’t want to lose my rhythm so I’m working on my post moves, doing a lot of shots, I did some jump roping, and a lot of court running, and stuff like that. I don’t want to be too far off.’
Perkins will miss at least a week with a reoccurring shoulder injury. It has plagued him since a Christmas Day game against the Los Angeles Lakers, according to Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, and is the explanation behind his recent inconsistency on the glass. As a precaution, Perkins is avoiding physical contact. Other than that, he’s following the same routine.
‘I just [can’t] play basketball, contact, that’s it,’ he said. ‘I hit the weights earlier today so it’s getting better by the day … You’ve got to scale back but it never really fell off. I’m pretty much on the same page, I’m just doing different type of exercises now to work different parts of the muscle, so that’s really what I’m concentrating on.’
Perkins hopes to play next Monday against the Phoenix Suns, but said he is not going to rush his return. As for Brian Scalabrine, who has been filling in for Perkins, his return against Shaquille O’Neal would be perfect timing.
‘Wow,’ said a wide-eyed Scalabrine, unaware of the upcoming match up. ‘I’d like the opportunity to start but Perk is the guy who should be on the Diesel.’
|Cs to be challenged by one of their own||01.08.09 at 11:42 pm ET|
Before Rajon Rondo was taking hard spills on the court, it was Delonte West who was sacrificing his body for the Boston Celtics. Two years after leaving the Cs as part of the Ray Allen deal, West has brought his hustle to the Cleveland where it has sparked LeBron James and the streaking Cavaliers. Those who played with West early in his career are not surprised by his success.
‘There’s no doubt that I thought before Delonte even went there, I thought Delonte was a perfect fit for LeBron James,’ said Brian Scalabrine, a teammate of two seasons. ‘When he got traded to Seattle and he wasn’t playing for whatever, it’s just all about the place you go and where you fit in.’
West has fit in perfectly since being dealt from the Seattle SuperSonics last season. The addition of West, along with Mo Williams, is an upgrade to the Cavaliers backcourt that once relied heavily on James’ long-range game. Rather than compensating for the inconsistencies of Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic, James can play closer to the basket without worrying about their guards.
West’s gritty defense is also a factor in the Cavs’ NBA-low 89.1 points allowed per game (down from 96.7 last season). His intensity will be challenging for the Celtics to contain when they take on the Cavaliers on Friday night.
‘D-West has helped them a lot,’ said Kendrick Perkins, who played three seasons with West. ‘He puts another shooter out there on the court for LeBron to pass it to when he drives and penetrates. D-West can make plays. He’s a defender, he’s very feisty, and D-West helps their team a lot. We’ve just got to make sure we go out there and try to keep him under control, keep him off the offensive rebounding, try to get in his aspects a little bit, and just go from there.’
After losing for three years in Boston and inexplicably riding the bench in Seattle, West inked a multi-year deal last summer to stay in Cleveland. Even though his tough play could burn the Celtics this season, his former teammates know he’s in the right place.
Said Scalabrine, ‘I told him when he came here (with the Cavs), ‘Listen, you’re in a place where you can be, as long as LeBron is there, you can be there for the rest of your career and you can thrive in that situation.”
|LeBron isn’t Celtics biggest competition||at 9:54 pm ET|
Ask the Boston Celtics who their toughest competition in the East is and they won’t say LeBron James. They’ll tell you it is themselves who stand in their way of another title, that only they can control the fate of their season. On Friday night when the suddenly skidding Celtics take the court against the Cleveland Cavaliers, their biggest challenge is not stopping King James. It is simply not getting beat by their own mistakes.
‘I really don’t care who we play next,’ Ray Allen said. ‘It’s just, I look at it personally as an opportunity to get back on track to do what I need to do to help this team. Every little thing that I look at that has my input or my stamp individually for this team, I’ve got to find out ways to do it better, to make it better out there.’
After winning 19-straight, the Celtics are on a three-game losing streak and have dropped six of their last eight contests. At this point they aren’t seeing Friday as a chance to beat an Eastern Conference rival but rather an opportunity to get back on track.
‘The thing about our team is that we don’t ever look ahead. Now that we’ve got Cleveland, we’re concentrating on Cleveland. But we never once had just talked about beating Cleveland,’ Kendrick Perkins said. ‘We need a win. We’re desperate for one right now.’
Even though winning on the road has been a struggle for the Celtics this season, spoiling the Cavs perfect home record is a test they are up for.
‘We have an opportunity to go in down there playing one of the best teams in the league,’ Leon Powe said. ‘They’re real hot at home too. I think they’ve won about 18 straight in their house. Man, it’s going to be a challenge. But we’ve got a wonderful opportunity to go in there and play well and hopefully pull out a win to give us a big confidence boost.’
A win in Cleveland would do more than get the Celtics back on the winning side. The Eastern Conference standings are so close this season that an early January victory could pay dividends in the playoffs.
‘Really, we’re just trying to win all the games we possibly can and get homecourt advantage,’ Perkins said. ‘That just would make it a little bit easier for us in the playoffs. But if we don’t get homecourt advantage I’m not saying we won’t win he championship, but it’d really be a whole lot harder.’
With an electrified crowd behind them, the Cavs will also look to avenge last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals elimination. The biggest key is matching their intensity.
‘It has the same sense of urgency,’ Powe said. ‘We’ve got to go out there, play hard, it’s going to be just like a Game 7. They’re going to come at us and try to hit us in the mouth first. We’ve got to take it and then respond back. We haven’t been doing that as of lately but I think we should be alright going out there. Our captains and everybody on this team know what we’ve got to do to win the game.’
Playing hard is one thing, but the Celtics don’t have a panicked attitude toward the game. Allen added the team has not reached the point of frustration yet, and Sam Cassell, the only member of the Celtics who has won back-to-back titles, explained there’s no need to get flustered this early in January.
‘When you’re repeating you’ve got all that stuff with big matchups, but it doesn’t matter,’ he said. ‘You want to win every game possible but it doesn’t make you or break you. A team that got its rhythm in April going into the playoffs is a team that can win a championship … Why should we [worry]? We aren’t breaking .500. When I won a championship we were 10 games over .500, that’s all.’
The Celtics won 19 straight by focusing on one day at a time. After Friday night they have 44 more regular season games left and each one is just as important as a match up against LeBron James. It doesn’t matter who’s on the opposite side of the court. The Celtics have to take care of the five guys in green first.
‘It wouldn’t have made a difference if it were Cleveland or Sacramento,’ Allen said. ‘It wouldn’t have made a difference. We lost three in a row and that’s the mentality we have to have going into the game.’
|All-Star Voting Update||12.25.08 at 7:06 pm ET|
On Christmas Day the second returns of the 2009 NBA All-Star Game ballots were announced. Dwight Howard continues to lead all votes while Rajon Rondo still struggles to crack the top 10 among all guards. Boston Celtics are bolded below in the Eastern Conference results:
Forwards: LeBron James (Clev) 1,259,764; Kevin Garnett (Bos) 905,506; Yi Jianlian (NJ) 762,162; Chris Bosh (Tor) 500,700; Paul Pierce (Bos) 313,474; Shawn Marion (Mia) 210,040; Hedo Turkoglu (Orl) 137,035; Danny Granger (Ind) 116,238; Josh Smith (Atl) 110,186; Michael Beasley (Mia) 100,257; Tayshaun Prince (Det) 98,262.
Guards: Dwyane Wade (Mia) 1,229,858; Allen Iverson (Det) 858,469; Vince Carter (NJ) 600,087; Ray Allen (Bos) 354,642; Devin Harris (NJ) 267,504; Gilbert Arenas (Wash) 205,223; Derrick Rose (Chi) 203,687; Luke Ridnour (Mil) 197,933; Jose Calderon (Tor) 193,715; Jameer Nelson (Orl) 174,081; Joe Johnson (Atl) 162,772.
Centers: Dwight Howard (Orl) 1,421,882; Samuel Dalembert (Phi) 232,733; Rasheed Wallace (Det) 163,279; Jermaine O’Neal (Tor) 147,534; Andrew Bogut (Mil) 112,708; Al Horford (Atl) 107,118; Ben Wallace (Clev) 89,809; Emeka Okafor (Char) 69,015; Zyrdrunas Ilgauskas (Cle) 60,970; Kendrick Perkins (Bos) 54,772; Brendan Haywood (Wash) 28,182.
|Perk vs. Bynum: Christmas Day Battle of the Bigs||12.24.08 at 10:01 am ET|
“If we had Andrew Bynum, it would have been different.”
He would have shut down Kendrick Perkins, who made Pau Gasol look soft. He would have stopped the Celtics from scoring 131 points in their Game Six victory. He would have helped the Lakers win it all … right?
Not so fast.
Eyes will be on Bynum and Perk on Christmas Day as the Lakers look to snap the Celtics 19-game winning streak, with many hoping Bynum will dominate Perkins and the Cs in the paint. Both big men went through struggles early in the season but Perk has demonstrated the maturity to overcome his setbacks while Bynum continues to be inconsistent.
Perkins was called for nine technical fouls by the first week in December. He looked like an emotional ticking time bomb on the court and was on pace to unseat Rasheed Wallace as the King of the Ts. But then something clicked. Perkins channeled his energy to his own game, focusing on his shot and protecting the glass. In the ten games since his last technical foul, he is shooting better than 60% from the field and averaging nearly 13 points and 10 rebounds. Last week Perkins posted 25 points and eight rebounds against the Chicago Bulls … without a single foul.
Whether it is the veteran leadership of the Big Three, the momentum of a historic winning streak, or simply the maturation process, Perkins has taken his game out of his head and onto the court. He is just as reliable at the start of the game as he is at the end in close situations. The same can’t be said for Bynum.
This season Bynum has found himself on the bench down the stretch, and he’s let everyone know he thinks he deserves more. Unlike the Celtics, who don’t get the nod until they’ve earned the minutes, Bynum wants more time to prove himself on the court. How did Phil Jackson respond? “When he shows the ability to play defense appropriately, he’ll probably be there,” Jackson said. It’s a clear message that hasn’t seemed to resonate.
On the night of Perkins’ season-high performance, Bynum was held to four points, six rebounds, and four fouls in a two-point loss to the Miami Heat. He followed up that game with just three points, one rebound, and five fouls in a loss to the Orlando Magic. Having a bad night against Dwight Howard is one thing, but four points against Joel Anthony? There’s no explanation for that when you’re supposed to be the savior of a championship contender. Even though his performance slightly improved in the past two games, which version of Bynum will show up against the Celtics?
“If we had Andrew Bynum, it would have been different.”
On Christmas Day the Celtics and Lakers will see just how different it could have been.
|Sounds of the Game… Celtics 126, Bulls 108||12.20.08 at 10:32 am ET|
What makes a great team is when it can constantly find way to get better even when things are already going so well. Doc Rivers and staff worked with center Kendrick Perkins to work on setting better screens and picks, convincing him that this would lead to better seals under the basket and eventually more scoring opportunities for him. The result? Perk scored a career high 25 points on Friday night, second only to Ray Allen’s 27 as the C’s (yawn-yawn) dispatched of the Chicago Bulls 126-108 at TD Banknorth Garden. Now, the Celtics can match the team’s all-time winning streak mark of 18 on Sunday night against Quentin Richardson and the Knicks at home. If victorious against New York, the chance to break it comes on Tuesday against another arch-rival, the Philadelphia 76ers.
|Hold the Fries for Pierce||12.14.08 at 9:33 pm ET|
‘I got a rotisserie, so you can pretty much throw anything in that and just sit it and forget it,’ Paul Pierce said with a laugh.
If only his weight loss program was that simple. This summer Pierce estimates he dropped between eight to ten pounds, a step he took to enhance the quality of his career. Pierce, 31, had seen plenty of players gain weight around the same age and he couldn’t afford to do the same. Not when there is a championship to defend.
‘You always want to improve. I’m at the stage and the age where I’m not getting any younger and it’s going to be more difficult to keep off weight,’ he said. ‘But it’s just making a conscious effort, especially as my career winds down for the last four or five years, to just be in the best shape possible.’
Pierce became his own personal chef and said goodbye to many of the foods he had grown accustomed to.
‘I just cut back on a lot of meats, like red meats. I don’t eat a lot of steak as much as I did before, hamburgers, stuff like that,’ he explained. ‘It’s more chicken and fish, salads, pasta. Not as much pasta either, but you gotta sneak it in there sometimes. There are some great Italian places out here in Boston.’
The NBA season keeps Pierce out of his kitchen so he has to be extra cautious on the road. The combination of eating in the locker room after games, late-night meals, and dining out are red flags he has to avoid, or pay the price the following day.
‘It’s hard, especially when you go to Dallas and Mark Cuban puts all that food in [our locker room],’ he said. ‘I’m not saying I don’t cheat though. I just know I’ve got to get some extra work in the next morning.’
While Pierce decided to lose the weight on his own, he was impressed by how much shedding pounds transformed his teammate’s career. Kendrick Perkins lost 16 pounds heading into last season.
‘Just seeing him where he was day one,’ Pierce said. ‘I watched him from a kid to now and if you look at his pictures from his rookie year, you’d be like, ‘Man, who was that?”
So now that Pierce has traded in fried food for fresh fruit, what guilty pleasure does he miss the most?
‘Man, Mexican food,’ he said. ‘Growing up in Los Angeles you’ve got all the good Mexican places. I’m a taco guy, burritos, stuff like that. I cut back on those but I kind of sneak those in here and there. My mom makes the best chicken enchiladas. (Pauses) Man!”
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