HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When the list of the NBA’s most valuable players is discussed, you will never hear the name Kendrick Perkins involved.
But if you watched the 2010 NBA Finals, from start to finish, you know that Perkins not being able to play in Game 7 was as big a factor in the Lakers’ defeating the Celtics as anything. Perkins went down in Game 6 with a right knee injury that required “reconstructive” surgery. Without him, the Celtics’ lacked that interior toughness to grind out Game 7 at the Staples Center.
So now you know what all the fanfare was about in Boston last night, when the Celtics’ rugged center made his return after a seven month layoff to recover from his surgery. The Celtics found out just how crucial Perkins was to their mix when they lost him. And now that they have him back, the optimism in Boston is wicked thick, and rightfully so.
He entered to a 25-second standing ovation. “I tried not to be too emotional and stay focused,’’ he said.
The Standing O didn’t surprise anyone.
“There’s people in the crowd that work hard every day, blue collar, and Perk identifies with those people,’’ said [Celtics coach Doc] Rivers. “If you’re a guy that works 9 to 5, you’ve got to love Perk because that’s who he is.’’
“He is always the guy that has been the hard-hat, lunch-bucket worker on the team,’’ added forward Ray Allen.
His presence was far more than ceremonial. He played 17 minutes, putting up a 7-point, 6-rebound, 3-assist line. He only committed two fouls in those 17 minutes, and, miracle of miracles, neither one was on a high pick.
“I thought he was terrific,’’ said Rivers. “I thought as the game went on his timing got better. I thought defensively he was terrific from the start. Just communication, we were loud again defensively, which was nice. You could hear him and Kevin [Garnett] barking orders defensively, and that makes us really good.’’
Championship “good” to be exact.
The difference between the Lakers and Celtics in the Finals was razor-thin. Lakers center Andrew Bynum was playing on an injured knee as well. But the Lakers had more up front than the Celtics did when it mattered most, at the end.
The Celtics solved that issue in the offseason, adding Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal and Semih Erden. But getting Perkins back takes them completely over the top in that respect.