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Doc Rivers sees Kevin Garnett in the ‘half’ Kendrick Perkins 01.17.12 at 9:36 am ET
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When he was in Boston, Kendrick Perkins was known as the lumbering shot blocking man in the middle with a scowl.

When his former coach Doc Rivers looked out on the court Monday night, he saw a much different Perk.

“He’s half Perk but he’s quicker,” Rivers said of Perkins, who lost 30 pounds in the offseason. “He had a move today — even though he traveled — where he caught it, took two dribbles, went quick and gathered himself.”

This is the man that Celtics GM and team president Danny Ainge traded to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green at the trade deadline last February.

Perkins has matured — and that was clear for Rivers to see on Monday. Yes, he still got in foul trouble, limiting him to seven points and five rebounds in 28 minutes. But what was very clear — and audible — to Rivers from the Celtics sideline is what he’s done in terms of making the Thunder a tough team, a team battle-tested and ready to make a run at a title.

“You can see, he’s put work in his game,” Rivers said. “He has every year I’ve known him. His influence on that team is dramatic to me. You can see it, you can feel it. You can see it with the bigs, with [Serge Ibaka], they’re all defensive players now. Perk has completely changed the culture of that team, you can just see it on the floor. That’s terrific for him.”

Where did he get this from? Read the rest of this entry »

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Kendrick Perkins: ‘I’m just really glad it’s over’ at 1:50 am ET
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After playing his first game against his former teammates since being traded for Jeff Green last February, Thunder big man Kendrick Perkins didn’t hesitate when asked if part of him still felt like a Celtic.

“Yeah,” said Perkins, the C’s starting center during the 2008 NBA title and 2010 NBA Finals runs. “I mean, I have much love and I’m greatly appreciative about being in Oklahoma and stuff like that — I love Oklahoma — but being here for eight years and winning a championship, it’s hard to replace it. Just from what I learned, it’s still got a special place in my heart here. That’s all it is.”

A night that included a Jumbotron montage in his honor and a rousing standing ovation from the Garden crowd clearly affected Perkins, who finished with seven points and five rebounds in a 97-88 Oklahoma City victory. Here’s what he had to say in his postgame press conference. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fast Break: Celtics can’t catch up to Thunder 01.16.12 at 10:32 pm ET
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In a reminder of just how different this team is from the one that won the NBA title in 2008, the Celtics welcomed former center Kendrick Perkins to town, and his new team handed his (really) old team their fifth straight defeat, 97-88.

As Kevin Durant (28 points) and Russell Westbrook (26 points) combined for 54 points, the Thunder improved to 12-2 with their sixth road win in seven tries, leaving the Celtics (4-8) still searching for their first victory against a .500-plus team.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Slow me the way: The Celtics shot 34.1 percent in the first half and failed to scored 40 points before the break for the fourth time in six games, trailing the Thunder 46-39 after the opening 24 minutes. Once again, the C’s dug themselves into an early hole and spent the rest of the night tiring themselves out trying to dig out of it. Twice in the second half — once in the third and again late in the fourth quarter — they made runs to get back into the game, only to watch OKC widen the gap again.

Can they get a lift? The Celtics made a concerted effort to get to the rim, and they succeeded in getting to the basket, but their old legs just didn’t have the lift to finish the job. Thunder forward Serge Ibaka totaled four blocks in the first half alone, leaving the C’s with little to show for their effort.

Russell Westbrook > Rajon Rondo: At least for one night, in a battle of two point guards who have been mentioned in possible trade scenarios for each other, Westbrook got the best of his counterpart Rondo. Sure, Rondo nearly had a triple-double (12 points, 9 assists, 9 rebounds, 4 turnovers), but Westbrook buried impossibly big shot after impossibly big shot down the stretch, totaling 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

WHAT WENT RIGHT Read the rest of this entry »

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Celtics montage: ‘Thank you’ Kendrick Perkins at 8:56 pm ET
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In a Jumbotron montage, the Celtics paid homage to former center Kendrick Perkins, who returned to the Garden for the first time since being traded at the deadline to the Thunder for Jeff Green last February. Perkins started for the C’s during their 2008 NBA championship run, and if not for a knee injury in Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals, he may have won a second title in green. Following the tribute, in classic Perk form, he waved to the crowd in gratitude before resuming an argument with a referee about a call he took umbrage with earlier in the first half.

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NBA Power Rankings, 1/3 01.03.12 at 10:54 pm ET
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With the Celtics, Lakers, Mavericks and Spurs all hovering around .500 through the first two weeks of this shortened season, has the balance of NBA power officially shifted? The way I see it, a team can own any of three distinct advantages after an abbreviated training camp and during a season in which they’re playing every other night: 1) an experienced core; 2) young, athletic talent; and 3) depth. The Celtics own one of those advantages.

In the early going, the power picture remains blurry, so I’m taking a new approach to the rankings: Who would win a seven-game series if they played right now? For example, I’m of the opinion the C’s would lose a playoff series to any of the five teams ranked higher than them and defeat any of the 24 teams ranked lower. Got it? Good.

Miami Heat1. Miami (5-1): The Heat returned an experienced core, possess a ton of talented young athletes and got deeper with the additions of free agent Shane Battier and rookie Norris Cole. There’s a reason Dwyane Wade & Co. are better than 2-to-1 favorites to win the NBA title. This season is so short, LeBron James might not even have time to figure out a new way to choke.

Oklahoma City Thunder2. Oklahoma City (5-1): The Thunder won five of their first six games, and Russell Westbrook (38.0 FG%, 10.0 3P%) hasn’t even hit his stride yet. They’re incredibly young, incredibly talented and incredibly deep. And they also have Kendrick Perkins. I kid. I kid.

Chicago Bulls3. Chicago (4-1): Good news: Derrick Rose is still pretty good. Bad news: Rip Hamilton is still pretty old.

Dallas Mavericks4. Dallas (2-4): Without Tyson Chandler holding down the paint, the Mavericks rank 27th in the league in both rebounding and points allowed. Meanwhile, Lamar Odom‘s field goal percentage (19.5%) is almost as bad as his success rate in getting Khloe Kardashian pregnant (too soon?). Yet, the Larry O’Brien trophy remains in Dallas — probably on Mark Cuban‘s pillow, but still.

Los Angeles Lakers5. L.A. Lakers (3-3): Even after Andrew Bynum‘s four-game suspension combined with Kobe Bryant‘s wrist injury and a back-to-back-to-back to start the season, the Lakers emerged 3-3. It could be worse. Don’t forget: It’s never a good think when Black Mamba has a chip on his shoulder, and he might lose a cool $75 million for allegedly cheating on his wife Vanessa (who woulda thunk it?). Read the rest of this entry »

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NBA Offseason Review: Northwest Division 12.20.11 at 7:43 pm ET
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Given the drama (and comedy) that was the NBA lockout, the ensuing free agency frenzy and the vetoed trade by a commissioner of a group of owners who was acting as the general manager of an individual team that is owned by that same group of owners, it’s easy to get confused about who landed where. This is the second of six daily division-by-division reviews leading up to opening day.

NBA Offseason Review: Pacific Division

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

2010-11 record: 17-65
2010-11 standing: 5th in Northwest Division
NBA draft picks: 2. Derrick Williams; 43. Malcolm Lee
Key additions: Ricky Rubio (Spain); J.J. Barea (free agent); Brad Miller (trade)
Key substractions: Jonny Flynn (trade); Lazar Hayward (trade)
2011-12 starters: PG Ricky Rubio; SG Wesley Johnson; SF Michael Beasley; PF Kevin Love; C Darko Milicic
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 15.5
2011-12 prediction: 21-45

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

2010-11 record: 48-34
2010-11 standing: 3rd in Northwest Division; lost Western Conference first round, 4-2
NBA draft picks: 21. Nolan Smith; 51. Jon Diebler; 57. Tanguy Ngombo
Key additions: Jamal Crawford (free agent) Raymond Felton (trade); Kurt Thomas (free agent)
Key substractions: Andre Miller (trade); Brandon Roy (retired); Patrick Mills (free agent)
2011-12 starters: PG Felton; SG Wesley Matthews; SF Gerald Wallace; PF LaMarcus Aldridge; C Marcus Camby
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 41.5
2011-12 prediction: 39-27

Read the rest of this entry »

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Irish Coffee: Boston Charity Classic leftovers (mmm … leftovers) 11.22.11 at 2:34 pm ET
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How fleeting Rajon Rondo‘s Boston Charity Classic was, providing Celtics fans a glimpse of the past, present and future for just one Saturday night before the cold reality of the NBA lockout endures into the winter. All that remains is this highlight package I put together and a few interesting quotes from the postgame interviews. It is the week of Thanksgiving after all, so here are some leftovers from what was a fun evening on the Harvard campus.

CELTICS CAPTAIN PAUL PIERCE

On decertifications: “A lot of players looked to me for leadership when they talk about negotiations, when they talk about options, when they talk about decertification. A lot of guys ask me, and what I did with that was just kind of give them the information. At the end of the day, as a whole, players gotta make a vote — make a choice whether to negotiate, decertify or file an antitrust lawsuit.”

On negotiations: “Right now, I want to get a deal. I want to play. I don’t have too many more years left. But we want the right deal. I think that’s the most important thing.”

On ultimatums: “We don’t feel like it’s a fair deal. If we did, we would have signed it, obviously. Maybe some players do, some players don’t, but as a majority we didn’t feel that was the right deal for us. … If I had a vote, would I make the deal now? You know what? I don’t think the deal that’s on the table is a deal that I would take.”

On meetings: “I wasn’t at the last couple meetings, so it kind of took me by surprise that last day when they broke up the union. So, a lot of that really took me by surprise, but I don’t think it was mentioned to bring it to the whole body, the whole union for a vote. The player representatives get a vote, and we’re at where we’re at.”

On veterans: “A lot of the older guys are kind of different players in this, because it’s for the older guys to say, ‘Take the deal, we already have contracts, we’re on our last two or three years and finish out.’ But it’s something bigger than everybody’s individual legacy. It’s about the future of the league, and that’s what we talked about when we get together. Me, Ray [Allen], Kobe [Bryant], guys who are veterans in the league — we feel like that’s the most important thing moving forward with the NBA.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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