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.
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.
San Antonio: 9.11
Los Angeles: 8.54
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…