Big Perk Finally Has His Coming Out Party

By Stephen Alford
Updated: December 2, 2005

BOSTON,—Celtics coach Glenn Doc Rivers is looking pretty geniusy right about now. For the past few weeks, Doc has been telling CelticNation that he is going to start holding his frontcourt accountable for their lack of rebounds. Among the culprits: Mark Blount, who is listed at 7’0, 250 lbs. Blount is averaging only 4.1 rebounds in 29.7 minutes per game, and he’s no where to be found when it comes to offensive rebounds as he is not even averaging a full offensive rebound per game (.9). During his starts this year, Blount has yet to produce a game where he’s grabbed double digit rebounds. Definitely, not the numbers you want from your man in the starting five spot. Furthermore, out of the 14 games that have been played thus far, the Celtics have outrebounded their opponent in eight games, but the majority of their boards are coming from the guard spot with captain Paul Pierce leading the team with 8.9 rebounds per game.

Doc has also been saying that CelticNation can expect to see more of Kendrick Perkins, who just entered his third year in the League and was drafted by the Cs right out of high school and selected #27 overall in the 2003 NBA Draft. With all that in mind, Doc’s prescription for Blount was bench-rest. Blount was supplanted in the starting lineup by Kendrick Perkins, who has been jonesin’ for some quality minutes on the hardwood since his arrival in the Bean. Doc’s recommendation proved to be the right one for the Celtics, and, as a result, Boston defeated the Philadelphia 76ers by a score of 110 to 103 on Wednesday. Kendrick Perkins posted career-highs in points (12), rebounds (19, including eight from the offensive end) and assists (four), and also contributed two blocked shots.

“That’s why I started him. I knew that all the time,” quipped a joking Doc Rivers. “I think he’s a hell of a rebounder. When you look at the minutes he played (28), it’s even more impressive. It’s not like he played starter minutes because he was in foul trouble. So it was great. I didn’t know if he was capable of that or not to be honest.”

Perkins showed how capable he was at the start of the opening frame. He finished the first quarter with six points, but more importantly, he snatched six rebounds already surpassing what Blount averages. Three of those rebounds were on the offensive end, and he was able to tip-in two of those offensive rebounds for four points, both coming within the first three minutes of the game.

I’m sure CelticNation was convinced that Allen Iverson, Chris Webber and the rest of the Philadelphia 76ers were going to have their way with the Celtics, but the Cs seemed to rally behind the energy that Perkins exhibited throughout the game. By the time the first quarter ended, the Cs were ahead of the Celtics by a score of 28-25. Big Perk was going head-to-head with four year vet Samuel Dalembert, who missed the first 13 games of the season with a back injury. Dalembert, known for his athleticism and shot blocking ability, is no star but he is no slouch either. But he wasn’t able to move Big Perk from the trenches, and Perk was able to get the best of Dalembert on the boards (and Webber too for that matter) all throughout the game, making plays when the Celtics needed plays to be made.

He put a spin move on Dalembert and converted a hook shot that broke a 41-41 tie. When Ricky Davis missed a jumper, Perkins was there to grab another offensive rebound, and converted another hook shot to put Boston up by seven (51-44) with 2:39 remaining in the second quarter. Big Perk was tenacious in the first half against the Sixers and finished the half with 10 points and 10 rebounds (five from the offensive end). CelticNation never saw Mark Blount or Raef LaFrentz dominate the boards the way young Perkins did in the first half, and the 14,027 live witnesses waited with anticipation to see if he could match that performance in the second half and finish the night with a 20/20 (points and rebounds).

Perk didn’t score as well in the second half but his dominance on the boards continued. He put his skills in other facets of the game on display as well. Once again, the Green fed off of the energy Perk brought to the hardwood. At one point in the third, Big Perk blocked a Dalembert attempt. Pierce was able to save the ball before it went out of bounds, and Perkins was there to recover it. His nice outlet pass to Ricky D, who finished the play with a layup to the left side, broke a 68-68 tie, and caused ovation throughout the TD Bank North Garden.

“I told you guys last year, the one thing Perk is he’s a terrific passer,” said Doc. “He really is. He’s going to keep getting better. He has a great feel with the pass … when he just plays the game and gets comfortable he’s a pretty darn good passer, one of our better bigs at passing.”

I can only imagine what was going through the mind of Mark Blount at that point.

On the flip side, Perkins is only 21 years old and is prone to make mistakes. He probably was caught up in his own good fortunes when he bricked a jumper from about 12-feet from the basket. The shot attempt was on the left side of the hoop, but the ball went over the rim and hit the right side of the backboard. After the game Doc Rivers joked that he killed Jerry West with that shot. West IS the NBA logo and that logo resides in the exact same spot that Perkins’s attempt went. When Ricky Davis, who finished the game with 26 points, was asked if he taught Perkins how to shoot like that, he mused, “Nah, I didn’t teach that. I might’ve taught him the jumpshot but not to hit the other side of the backboard.”

When asked to comment on the play, a good-spirited Perkins replied, “I came to the huddle and Doc was like, ‘Anybody that can get that many rebounds, Perk, I’ll let you have that shot.’

When he was told what Rivers said about him killing Jerry West with that shot, Perkins replied with a smile, “Yeah, I did. I don’t even want to talk about it.”

In three years, Perk has already developed a rep for being overly aggressive, and the refs were quick to call a technical foul on him when he raked Iverson across the cheek with his forearm as AI drove to the hoop. Perk was probably trying to send a message since Iverson, who finished the game with 40 points, was able to get to the basket at will. As Iverson came out of the tangle, Big Perk stood there hovering over him as if Iverson needed to be reminded how small he is in stature compared to the 6’10”, 280 lbs big man from Texas. While holding his cheek the entire time, AI walked from underneath his basket to halfcourt and back toward his basket stopping at the foul line to shoot his free throws.

“I think Iverson acted a little bit,” said Perk. “But I acted tough so, you know, it just went against me.”

Perk’s aggressiveness resulted in him fouling out with 2:47 left in the game. As he walked to the bench, all of the remaining fans in attendance stood up from their seats and applauded him.

When asked if he was surprised by Perkins’s performance, Chris Webber, who scored 28 points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished out four assists and had a block shot, had this to say: “It’s really hard to be surprised in the NBA. Guys feel that you’re the best guys in the world so if you take anyone for granted you haven’t been around that long. It’s disappointing that he had a career night against us. 19 rebounds is a career night for mostly any player and we didn’t take him for granted, but we just didn’t do our job on him.”

“He did a great job,” praised Ricky D after the win. “He came in and got every rebound and attacked every rebound he could. It was a great lift we needed. It’s the best I’ve seen him rebound. He played really good on the offensive end. He attacked Dalembert so it was a great game for him.”

“That’s his role,” added the Truth. “He’s going out there he’s going to be a stopper on defense, block shots, dominate the rebounds, sets picks. He’s our enforcer. He really came into his own tonight. I hope he takes this game home, watches, and see what he does well, and continue to build on it.”

CelticNation will keep a close eye on Perk to see if he can indeed build on that game. And if he can the proverbial sky will be his limit.