By A. Sherrod Blakely
WALTHAM The Boston Celtics saw something in practice Sunday they haven't seen all season - their usual starting five.
The only thing that could have potentially overshadowed Kevin Garnett going through his first full practice since suffering a muscle strain in his lower right leg on Dec. 29 at Detroit was the news that Kendrick Perkins was also able to participate in the Celtics' full contact practice.
It was the first time since Game Six of the NBA Finals last June that the C's had their normal starting five - Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Garnett and Perkins - all on the floor at the same time. In Game Six last June against the Los Angeles Lakers, Perkins suffered a torn MCL and PCL in his right knee.
Even though it has been several months since they were on the floor together, the chemistry was just as strong.
"You could just see it with our first unit," said coach Doc Rivers. "Today was the first time this year we had our real first unit on the floor. Today, offensively, it was another level. They could run anything they wanted. Everybody knew where everybody was at."
Perkins didn't waste much time getting back to doing the little things that have made him an important cog in the Celtics success.
During practice, Perkins hit teammate Marquis Daniels with a screen that forced Daniels to sit out the remainder of practice with a sore back. Daniels, who chuckled about it later, said the injury won't prevent him from playing against the Magic.
"I did hit him on the flat screen," said Perkins, also with a grin. "I told him, 'My bad.' He said it was a good pick, but I did catch him on the flat screen."
Perkins wasn't happy about the hit on his teammate. But he was happy about the fact that, after all these months sidelined while recovering from knee surgery, he was able to return and essentially do a number of the things he did prior to the injury.
While Perkins admits his timing is a little bit off, "it wasn't too bad. It was all right. I got a little winded, but I battled through it."
Rivers thought Perkins' practice was "phenomenal."
"Perk went through the whole practice," Rivers said. "Hell, he looked the best. I could make a case for playing him tomorrow, if anybody."
Before you run out and add Perkins to your fantasy league roster, however, Rivers was quick to add: "He will not play right away, obviously. First day for Perk live . . . phenomenal. He was great."
Perkins said he is targeting his return to be Feb. 4 against the Dallas Mavericks.
As for Garnett, being able to go through Sunday's practice bodes well for his chances of being on the floor Monday night against the Orlando Magic.
"I think Kevin will go tomorrow," Rivers said. "We went up and down a little harder on purpose, just to see how his body felt."
If Garnett feels good during the team's walkthrough prior to the game on Monday, he'll play.
But Rivers was quick to add the team will continue to err on the side of caution with all of their players, Garnett included.
"If there's anything not right about Garnett, he will not go," Rivers said.
Of course, not all the injury news for the Celtics was good on Sunday.
Shaquille O'Neal has an adductor strain in his right leg, and did not practice on Sunday. He is questionable for Monday's game.
The Celtics should know early this week whether Jermaine O'Neal plans to have surgery which could potentially keep him out for the rest of the season and some, if not all of the playoffs. O'Neal will head to New York to get a second opinion.
"I think we're leaning towards no surgery, obviously, if he wants to play," Rivers said. "But maybe someone can say he can do it and he can come back in four weeks, that would be different."