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Evening Notebook: Perk Practices, Power Rankings, JO’s Last Stand?

 

A few random notes on an off day:

CELTICS GETTING HEALTHIER

Kendrick Perkins practiced today in Waltham, did some non-contact work with the rest of the team and even powered through a few dunks. We’re over six months from the date of his injury and his recovery remains right on track. ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg reported from practice:

Perk: “A couple times I did [think about the knee], like on a pick-and-roll that I went up and dunked, but I didn’t even think about it then, not until after. I was like, ‘Damn, I might be alright, after all.’ I felt pretty good out there.

“I guess, basically, it’s having the confidence to know that — you’re kinda going to be scared on it the first couple times being back out there — but [I wasn't] really today. My timing was a little off, but I thought I did pretty well for my first time back.”

Perkins said he hasn’t experienced any setbacks and simply wants to keep moving forward, but admitted that the coaching staff’s goals for his return might be even more ambitious than his own. He said coach Doc Rivers pegged a potential return to full-throttle practice in late January or early February, but Perkins is still eying the All-Star break. He’ll do more skeleton work for the next month or so, then ease his way into contact drills in the new year.

Jermaine O’Neal nears his return date after 18 games on the shelf. Either tomorrow night against Philadelphia or Christmas Day against Orlando, O’Neal will be back in the Celtics lineup. The safe assumption is that he’ll be the second big off the bench behind Glen Davis, who has clearly earned his sixth man role by playing the best basketball of his career. And in the event Shaquille O’Neal needs additional games off over the next month, Jermaine’s return will give Doc Rivers some flexibility.

However…

Does anyone else think JO’s conditioning is suspect? Not because he’s been hurt for a couple of months and will have to suck some wind while getting back into game shape but because a guy with his mileage, with a history of knee problems, should probably be 10-15 pounds lighter than he is, if he wants to extend his career. Every day, we see what superior conditioning does for Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Is O’Neal in the same kind of cardiovascular shape, with the same low body fat? I wonder.

***

BYE BYE J.O.?

Speaking of O’Neal, Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star had a piece yesterday where the Celtics power forward intimated he might hang it up after this season, rather than play out the second and final year of his contract with the Celtics:

O’Neal, 32, said he’ll think about retiring next summer if the Celtics, who have the second-best record in the NBA, win the title this season.

It’s just a single line in the piece but with a lockout looming and the prospect of a 2011 title to cap off his career, O’Neal might be wondering if he’s best to hang it up rather than battle through injuries for another season.

***

C’S HAVE THE POWER

Both John Hollinger and Marc Stein have the Celtics on top of their power rankings this week at ESPN.  You can take these with whatever size grains of salt you feel appropriate but there’s some interesting things included, particularly on Hollinger’s:

I deliberately cut out the rankings after the first five because, at least at this point of the season, the top-5 are, in my opinion, the only teams in legitimate contention for the championship this year. Look at the average scoring margins – an excellent (the best?) predictor of future success.

Boston: 9.58
Miami: 9.37
San Antonio: 9.11
Los Angeles: 8.54
Dallas: 5.89

All of the top-5 except Dallas are blowing teams out of the water on a regular basis. As context, no other team in the league has an average margin above 3.72 (Chicago).

Relative to its peers, Dallas looks debatable as a title contender, based solely on this number. In their win over Miami last night, I was actually more impressed with the Heat and, despite Jason Terry’s fourth quarter heroics, wonder if Mark Cuban’s bunch have enough offensive firepower to survive four rounds in the Western Conference playoffs. But the Mavs have faced the toughest schedule of the elite (Boston is second, an encouraging sign) so those margins could even out as time passes.

More on strength of schedule – of the elite teams, the Lakers have faced the easiest schedule so far – and it’s by a pretty wide margin. Their opposition has a mere .410 winning percentage.

From what we know now, it certainly does look like we’re headed for two titanic conference finals – Boston vs. Miami in the East, and Los Angeles vs. San Antonio in the West.

***

CAN WE ALL PLEASE START USING THIS PHRASE?

In Stein’s rankings, he makes reference to Charles Barkley’s wondrous summation of Rajon Rondo’s importance to the Celtics. Said Sir Charles: “He’s the engine that stirs the drink”. I’ve been using this con-stant-ly since Thursday night.

I hope you are too…

  • Morpheus

    Will JO's contract count against our cap if he retires?____And yes i do think his conditioning is SUSPECT, VERY SUSPECT. He looks heavier that's for sure.____No doubt about Rondo. What's the numbers on our offense since Rondo's been out? Better or worse?

  • I_Love_Green

    Great to see Perk back doing some things on the court. Can't wait to get the beast back. I agree about JO's conditioning. I noticed he looked much heavier than usual earlier in the year, and this knee injury won't help. But it would be great to win the championship, have JO retire, and get our MLE back.

  • Sam

    Great thing about the MLE (at least under current rules) is that you can use it on a new player every year. JO doesn't hurt our ability to go out and get someone else on the MLE, but he does hurt our owners in the pockets and probably causes us not to go out and spend that money elsewhere.

  • Rob

    How hollinger put the Heat in front of the spurs is beyond me. The spurs are playing great against GOOD and GREAT teams, the heat have played maybe 2 or playoff teams in there "streak" yet they get more recognition. Can't wait until they get eliminated in the 2nd round.

    • Batman

      Hollinger doesn't put teams anywhere. His statistical analysis computer does it for him. So blame the computer i guess?
      Stein's are his opinion though and he has us first as well.

  • Batman

    Dear Jermaine O Neal:

    Please Jermaine stay healthy for us
    We payed you the full MLE to come jump on the championship wagon and help push a little
    We can understand that you got hurt, but when your on the court we better see progress.

    -Celtics fans of the world

  • DRJ1

    Dear Jermaine–
    You're a scared wimp, and useless. Don't be shocked if we trade your ass ASAP.

  • ElRoz

    Yeah…JO needs to first contribute to the team, then he should think about retiring…where is this guy's drive and pride? He is talented and skilled…and he is ready to come back…why retirement?

    On the other hand, an athelete must be getting fed up with certain parts that are sabotaging his performance – a lingering issue like the knee could frustrate anybody.
    I only wish that he, Shaq, and Perk are all ready and more or less healthy come second half of the season and playoffs.

  • CsFanInArkansas

    the coaching staff isn't the only group of people that would like to see Perk back sooner rather than later…i can't wait to have that guy back on the floor.

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