By Matt Moore, howiGit Contributing Writer, Boston, MA
Tuesday marked the first time Kendrick Perkins played a basketball game since his knee gaveout during Game 6 of the 2010 Finals. After extensive rehab, Perkins returned to action sooner than anyone expected, coming off the bench during the Celtics 112-95 win over Cleveland on Tuesday. In 17 minutes, the center had 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. He followed that up by playing 21 minutes against Portland on Thursday, and posting 10 points and 9 rebounds.
All things considered, Perkins looks pretty good, considering he’s only three games back from an injury that can be absolutely devastating for an athlete, especially a basketball player, and even more so for a big man like Perkins. Obviously he’s rusty. Obviously it’s going to take some time for him to get his rhythm back and get on the same page as the other starters. There will be some rough patches on the road to getting 100%. For his part, Perkins seems optimistic and the team is excited to start moving towards a completely healthy roster. Eventually when he is back to form, Perkins will slide into his spot as the starting center. Shaq will move to the bench and give that unit some strength and size.
The team is excited and so are the fans– the Garden gave Perkins a standing ovation when he came in the game on Tuesday. A lot of people maintain that had Perkins not gone down in Game 6, then the Celtics would have banner 18 hanging in the rafters right now. I don’t doubt the value of Perkins to the Celtics, especially on the defensive end. However, part of me questions whether this notion is something fans tell themselves to take some of the sting out of blowing a fourth quarter lead in Game 7 against the Lakers. All home fans overrate their players to some extent or another, and Perkins is probably just such a case. I’m almost positive most fans outside of Boston don’t care much for Perkins and feel he is overrated, annoying, or both. I know that at times I’ve been frustrated by watching him play over the last seven years. He tends to struggle with offensive post moves, constantly bringing the ball down on rebounds or catches rather than going up strong. The fact that he continually complains about calls also bothers me. But there are some positives. His post defense is solid, especially against Dwight Howard for some reason. In terms of team defense he is an important piece working along side Garnett. His pick and roll defense is worth noting. Plus his strength and ability to impose on other centers is an advantage.
Numbers wise, Perkins has ever done anything that really sticks out. His career averages: 6.4 PPG, 6 RPG, 1.4 BPG, .564% FG. Last season was arguably his best as a Celtic: 8.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, .602% shooting. These aren’t exactly All-Star level stats, but Perkins play fits in with Garnett, Pierce, Allen, and Rondo. As many fans will tell you, Perkins value isn’t always something that can be counted or averaged out. Still, some people continue to say that Perkins and Rondo are just along for the ride by playing with the Big Three and benefit accordingly. Rondo is proving that it’s tough to keep that argument alive. However, for Perkins, it’s not as easy. His numbers have jumped since Garnett and Allen arrived, and so has his apparent value in the minds of fans. But this could just as much be attributed to Perkins coming along in his own development at the right time.
For all his inconsistencies and limited offense, what Perkins does give the Celtics is another experienced big man who knows the system and has succeeded playing within it. He takes the burden off Shaq and bolsters the team defense. In a playoff series against Orlando, he can keep Howard contained. Matching up with the Lakers’ bigs is another reason Boston brought in O’Neal to go along with Perkins and Davis.
So as the Celtics continue to work back towards full health, it will be interesting to see how the team dynamic reacts in the second half of the season. In the mean time, let’s let Perkins be Perkins and remember the type of player he is.