|Inside the Kendrick Perkins-Dwight Howard matchup||02.05.11 at 5:19 pm ET|
Kendrick Perkins is renowned as one of the few men in the NBA who can go toe-to-toe with Dwight Howard. It’s a reputation that has grown over the years, ever since their meeting in the 2009 playoffs when Perkins stood tall with a shoulder injury so severe he couldn’t lift his arm over his head.
After missing the first two games against the Magic this season, Perkins is back in action — and the starting lineup — just in time for the rematch with Orlando on Sunday afternoon.
It’s been a fast climb for Perkins, who recorded his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds in 32 minutes against the Mavericks on Friday. He’s progressed so quickly that he’s obliterated the minutes restrictions that have been placed on him throughout his comeback.
After the Mavs game, thoughts naturally turned to the showdown with Howard. Perkins artfully streered clear of the questions.
“Don’t know,” he said when asked if he was ready. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Perkins also called Howard ‘a great player,’ and noted that the Celtics‘ team defense is just as important as any one-on-one performance. Perkins is well aware that while his reputation has been enhanced by his individual battles with Howard, he’s also been on the receiving ends of some tough games and the respect is real.
After holding him to 13 points on 3-for-10 shooting in Game 1 of last year’s conference finals, Perkins was told that the local media was calling on Howard to do more in Game 2. His eyes grew wide as he said, “See, what happens is, y’all gas the man up. Then I have to deal with it.” Howard went out and promptly scored 30 points.
In the 2009 series, Howard averaged better than 17 points and 14 rebounds while shooting close to 60 percent. In 2010, Howard averaged 26.3 points and 16 rebounds over the final three games. It’s not that Perkins is a Howard-stopper; it’s more that Perkins is capable of slowing him down, and more importantly, he’s also willing to take him on without the help of double-teams. That, in turn, helps take away the Magic’s ability to get open looks on kickouts off double-teams.
But there’s more to it than that. One of the Celtics’ basic defensive principles is they don’t mind if a superstar player scores a ton of points. Their philosophy is that great players will be great. Their main concern is making it as difficult for them as possible, and if a guy hits a shot with a hand in his face, that’s life. Celtics coach Doc Rivers has also said in the past that he doesn’t care if Howard scores 30 points, because that just means that someone isn’t taking a 3-pointer.
None of that makes it any easier to handle the assignment, however. Perkins likely won’t have Shaquille O’Neal backing him up, as Shaq is dealing with an Achilles injury. That leaves Semih Erden as the nominal backup center, but look for the Celtics to use Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis in spots as well.
Make no mistake: Perkins loves the challenge. He’s faced down the Lakers frontline and the Mavericks’ Tyson Chandler, but this will be his biggest test to date, as it always is.
|Report: Heat may target Kendrick Perkins in free agency||at 12:30 pm ET|
The NBA is facing massive uncertainty once the season ends if the owners decide to lockout the players, as expected. A new collective bargaining agreement would almost certainly re-write the rules on free agency, but one thing is clear from the Celtics perspective: Kendrick Perkins will be very much in demand.
In his latest After the Buzzer column, Yahoo columnist Marc Spears writes that a source expects the Miami Heat to make a run at Perkins once he hits free agency. That would make sense for the Heat who lack a big man compliment to Chris Bosh on their frontline. Under the current rules Miami would only be able to offer the mid-level exception, while the Celtics would be able to offer Perkins whatever they want to retain his services.
Either way, Perkins will be in demand as a 26-year-old center with proven rebounding and defensive skills.
|Kendrick Perkins rejoins starting lineup with Shaquille O’Neal sidelined||02.04.11 at 7:53 pm ET|
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.
|Delonte West shows TD Garden crowd he’s getting closer||at 7:32 pm ET|
Delonte West keeps progressing in his attempt to return from a broken right wrist. One day after he went through a full shootaround and skeleton practice with the Celtics on Thursday at their practice facility, he warmed up on the TD Garden floor, showing everyone he can catch with his right hand and shoot with his left.
“He didn’t practice,” coach Doc Rivers said on Thursday. “He just did the shootaround and the shooting and that’s about it.”
But Rivers acknowledged it was significant that West could take part in catch-and-shooting drills without any protection whatsoever on his wrist, broken on Nov. 24 in home game vs. New Jersey.
“That’s nice. He did run through all of our skeleton stuff so obviously, the next step will be him going through a practice,” said Rivers before adding that there is still no specific timetable for West to return to game action. “I have no idea. No time soon I don’t think but I’m not sure.”
Meanwhile, with Shaquille O’Neal out Friday and likely Sunday vs. the Magic, Kendrick Perkins was thrust into the starting lineup on Friday against the Mavericks, a little sooner than the All-Star break timetable Rivers orginally expected.
|Kendrick Perkins may start soon, but will he finish?||02.03.11 at 5:21 pm ET|
Shaquille O’Neal didn’t practice Thursday because his Achilles is inflamed, according to coach Doc Rivers. That makes Shaq questionable for Friday’s game against the Mavericks. “We may play him [Friday], we may not,” Rivers said. “We’ll see.”
When Shaq hasn’t been able to go Rivers has turned to rookie Semih Erden in order to keep Glen Davis in his familiar sixth man role off the bench. But now that Kendrick Perkins has five games under his belt, don’t be surprised if he gets the call.
“We will [make the switch] eventually,” Rivers said. “It’s not a big deal to us. I’m more concerned about who finishes the game.”
The coach has a point. Without Perkins the Celtics have been using Davis at center in the fourth quarter. According to 82games.com, Rivers has used the lineup with the four starters and Davis as much as he has the starting five with Shaq. The Davis-at-center lineup has been productive, and it makes sense due to the minutes limitations on Shaq, as well as his well-documented foul difficulty this season.
But Perkins’ return gives the Celtics options and that’s never a bad thing.
Perkins said he was a little surprised by how quickly he’s been able to get back in the flow. He had 10 points and nine rebounds against the Blazers and eight and 10 against the Kings. He also logged about 93 minutes on the four-game west coast trip and lasted 27 minutes against the Lakers.
“I thought I’d be off by so much,” Perkins said after practice Thursday. “I thought I’d have to get into a rhythm or whatever it may be. I’m just going to keep putting in the hard work. I’m still not where I want to be, but I am happy where I’m at.”
Asked what he felt he needed to improve, Perkins said, “Just my timing. My jumping. That’s about it. Timing and jumping. I feel like I have to get off the floor a little bit better.”
It’s only a matter of time before he rejoins the starting five. The real question will be answered at the end of the games.
Celtics center Kendrick Perkins joined the Dale & Holley show Thursday afternoon and talked about his early return from knee surgery. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
“I just put in a lot of hard work,” he explained. “Every day I was in here making sure I was getting my physical therapy in, making sure I was in the weight room every day. I just wanted to get back. I wanted to get back the smart way.”
Perkins acknowledged that he has a ways to go before he returns to form. “There’s a few times around the basket where I’m used to just catching it and going up and dunking,” he said. “My lift is not all the way there yet.”
Perkins said he’s pleased with the minutes he’s been getting since coming back. “I can’t complain,” he said. “I’m happy to be back out there. I’m playing a lot right now. So, I can’t complain one bit. I know one thing about Doc [Rivers], he’s going to look out for my best interests. But he also wants to win games. So, if I’m not producing, I should come out. But I feel like if I’m producing out there, then just leave me out there. I think he’s gradually starting to play me a little bit more and more. So it’s cool.”
The absence of Perkins in the first half of the season was made easier for the Celtics with the play of Shaquille O’Neal. “I think he’s brought a lot,” Perkins said. “Obviously, he’s given us depth. For a 38-year-old man, he’s playing well. He’s fit right on in with us. The chemistry is great. Obviously, you know everything about his basketball ‘ he’s physical, he’s intimidating and all this. So, I think he brings a lot to the team. A lot.”
Perkins called Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo “divas” when they gave him a hard time about signing a poster for him. He was asked to elaborate on that comment. “Divas are like people who want things a certain way ‘ their way ‘ all the time. That’s what divas are,” he said. “They want their socks laid out a certain way or something of that nature. That’s why I called them divas. They want their own seat on the bench and stuff like that. They give a teammate and a friend that they’ve known for years trouble about signing a poster for me. That’s divas ‘ just giving me a hard time, but they know they’re really going to do it, but they’ve got to give you a hard time first.”
Ray Allen ripped into the second unit at halftime of Tuesday’s victory over the Kings. Perkins said he was surprised but pleased with the veteran’s rare outburst. “I was very shocked,” Perkins said. “Because you know, Ray is a guy who very seldom shows emotions. I think he’s always one of the most poised guys on the team. So, he was very frustrated at halftime, and he had a reason to be. I actually was shocked, but I actually was like, ‘Yeah, Ray!’ I loved it. First I thought it was KG when I walked in. But it was Ray, so I was loving it.”
Perkins was injured in Game 6 of the 2010 finals and did not play in Game 7 as the Lakers rallied for the win. Asked if he thinks the Celtics would have won the title had he been healthy, he said: “I think so. I know one thing ‘ we probably wouldn’t have gotten outrebounded by 20. So, I believe so.”
|Irish Coffee: Time to start Kendrick Perkins||02.02.11 at 12:57 pm ET|
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):
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