Rivers finds it hard to take Perkins off the floor


Rivers finds it hard to take Perkins off the floor

By A.Sherrod Blakely

PORTLAND, Ore. It's only been two games since Kendrick Perkins returned to the Boston Celtics, and he's already causing problems for Doc Rivers.

For the first few games, Rivers has every intention of limiting Perkins' minutes.

But there's just one problem -- the 6-foot-11 center is playing so well that keeping him off the floor is becoming tougher and tougher.

Perkins played just over 20 minutes on Thursday, but was an integral part of Boston's 88-78 slugfest of a win over Portland.

Just six months removed from surgery to repair a torn MCL and PCL suffered in Game Six of the NBA Finals, Perkins had a near double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds.

"You forget about him out there," Rivers admitted. "I actually turned to Eddie Lacerte, the team's trainer and said, 'Hey, you gotta tell me.' "

While the C's medical staff is concerned with the stability of Perkins' right knee, Rivers is focused more on his conditioning.

"I felt good out there," Perkins said. "Just keep building. I probably could have played a little bit more, but listening to Doc, I know he's going to look out for me."

As well as Perkins played, Rivers is admittedly concerned about not pushing Perkins too hard, too soon.

"He was playing so well in the first half, I left him out there," said Rivers, who has said he would like to keep Perkins in the 16-18 minute range. "Once you go past that number, wind-wise and lung-wise, it's tough even after rest, to come back and play. I have to do a better job of monitoring his minutes."

Achieving that should be easier on Friday night against Phoenix.

The Celtics are banking on Shaquille O'Neal (right hip) to be back in the lineup, probably as a starter.

O'Neal has missed the C's last three games.

Prior to Thursday's win, both O'Neal and Rivers said the plan was for him to play against the Suns.

"I'm good; I've been good," O'Neal said. "Doc told me to take it easy. I've been doing other things; hot tub, hip strengthening exercises. I should be back by Phoenix."

As for Perkins, he's looking forward to playing in his first back-to-back set of games this season.

"Hopefully my body won't be aching," Perkins said. "I'm just looking forward to playing again. It seems like I been on vacation for six months. I have to earn my check a little bit."

The C's were in the midst of one of their worst nights in terms of turnovers, which led to a number of empty possessions.

But it was the solid defense and timely shots around the basket by Perkins, that helped the C's maintain a slim lead going into the fourth quarter.

"The thing when you have Perk back, when you lose Shaq who is a physical presence, you gain that in Perk," said Kevin Garnett. "He has great hands. He can finish around the basket. Defensively, he doesn't need a lot of help. He's a talker. We have that chemistry and rapport with him. To have him back to be a force . . . it's good to have Perk back."

Even if he is making it difficult for Rivers to keep him on the bench, which will probably change soon.

Rivers said he isn't sure when Perkins will return to the starting lineup, but he reiterated on Thursday that it was going to happen.

"He's going to re-enter it. It's just a matter of when," Rivers said. "Perk's a starter, and he'll be a starter at some point. I like our starting lineup with him in it. I like our bench with Baby and Shaq. I think that's terrific."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship


Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Pinpointing the exact moment Al Horford made up his mind to become a Boston Celtics isn’t clear, but the seeds of that decision can be traced back to last year’s playoffs – and no we’re not talking about the playoff series between Boston and Atlanta, either.
It was the Hawk’s second-round playoff series back in May against Cleveland, a team that swept them out of the Conference finals in 2015 and did so again last about five months ago.
Horford had every intention of returning to Atlanta, but as the free agency period wore on two things became quite clear: Winning an NBA title would have to go through Cleveland and it happening with him in Atlanta was becoming more and more unlikely.
In came the Celtics with a pitch that was heavy on present-day and down-the-road potential that wouldn’t require him to do anything other than continue to play the way he has for the past nine seasons.
“It (becoming a Celtic) became real for me real late and real quick,” Horford told CSNNE.com on Wednesday.
After mulling it over for a couple days, Horford said he was ready to become a Celtic.
“This could be a great opportunity even though I’m leaving a lot behind,” Horford said.
As you listen to Horford speak, it’s clear that the Celtics mystique played a role in his decision to sign with Boston.

 But as much as the Celtics’ lore and its on-the-rise status helped, there were certain events that Boston had no control over that actually helped their cause.
First the Hawks got in on a three-team trade in June with Utah and Indiana which sent Hawks All-Star point guard Jeff Teague to the Pacers while Atlanta received Utah’s first-round pick which was 12th overall and was used by Atlanta to select Baylor’s Taurean Prince. The move allowed Atlanta’s Dennis Schroeder to slide over into the now-vacant starting point guard position.
While it may help Atlanta down the road, it did little to move them closer towards knocking off Cleveland anytime soon.
And then there was the Hawks coming to terms on a three-year, $70.5 million deal with Dwight Howard early in the free agency period. That deal coupled with Atlanta’s desire to bring Kent Bazemore back, cast serious doubt as to whether Horford would return.
Horford, who inked a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston, told CSNNE.com that at the time of Atlanta’s deal with Howard, he was still open to the idea of returning.
But if Horford did, he knew figuring out the best way to play him, Howard and Paul Millsap who by the way has a player option that he’s likely to exercise which would make him a free agent next summer, was not going to be easy.

“It was definitely going to be different,” Horford said, then adding, “For me, the Celtics were becoming more and more a realistic option. After talking with my family, we felt this was the best for me.”
And while it’s still very early in his tenure as a Celtic, Horford has no regrets or second thoughts about his decision.
“As a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”
And that alone makes him a good fit with this franchise which from ownership to the front office to the coaching staff and of course the players, are all focused on one thing and that’s bringing home Banner 18.
 “Look at the resume. He’s been a winner wherever he’s played,” said Boston’s Amir Johnson. “It’s good to have a guy like that, with his talent and with his winning, playing next to you.”