With both O’Neals (Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal) in and out of the Boston Celtics lineup all year with nagging injuries, the depth of the Boston big men was short … until Kendrick Perkins made a sudden and surprise season debut off the bench Tuesday night in Boston’s blowout win over the hapless Cleveland Cavaliers. In 17 minutes, he started slow defensively (in mistiming attemped blocked shots) but in the end, racked up seven points, six rebounds and three assists.
In Portland last night, where the Celtics won a low-scoring battle by a score of 88-78, Perkins in 21 minutes had 10 points, nine boards and made all four of his free throws (which was a surprising but welcomed feat for this lifetime 60% shooter at the line).
Perkins will eventually play well over 20 minutes on a regular basis, and when he does, he, not Shaq, will be Boston’s most important big man at the center spot. After all, he is a difference maker down low, a lunch bucket kind of guy who quietly blocks a couple of shots per game and can get Doc Rivers 10 points and about eight rebounds per game, on average. If it wasn’t for the torn ACL injury in his right knee he suffered in Game 6 of last season’s NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers (which was the last game he played ’til Tuesday), his presence in Game 7 may have led to a different outcome and his squad winning the NBA title.
That’s how important he is to the team, and when he gets back in his starting role, the championship-level starting five of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins will soon be finally on the floor again, hopefully on a regular basis. It is a starting group that won it all in 2007-2008, almost did last season, and looks to do so again this season, despite all the hype in Miami.
Meanwhile, Shaq, who is 38 years old and out with a bad hip, just wants to win another title before he retires and will be comfortable with his reduced minutes with Perkins back in the fold, while PF/C Glen “Big Baby” Davis will continue excelling in his sixth man role (one of the best in the league, I might add, especially defensively). This will leave no significant time for rookie Semih Erden and Jermaine O’Neal, if and when the latter comes back from his own knee injury.
What were big worries are small ones now that Perk is back and healthy. Welcome back, big man!