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His patience pays off

Given opportunity, Perkins fills it up

Kendrick Perkins stuffed home a career-high 25 points and had eight rebounds. Kendrick Perkins stuffed home a career-high 25 points and had eight rebounds. (Charles krupa/Associated Press)
By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / December 20, 2008
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Kendrick Perkins couldn't afford to let an hour get by him.

He didn't want to get left behind.

His teammates are workers. Even if everyone thought the Celtics would be racking up the vacation time over the summer, he knew better.

Perkins is a worker just like they are. Over the summer he asked Kevin Garnett to teach him some tricks for his play in the post.

But Perkins had a bum shoulder.

"He couldn't touch a ball," said Rajon Rondo. "They wouldn't let him get in a gym and play."

Since training camp, Perkins said he's felt like he's been playing catch-up and then some.

As soon as it was OK for him to shoot in practice, he did. Then, hours after practice, he'd come back to the gym with his wife and son, and take more shots.

"I had to do a little bit extra," Perkins said.

Last night against the Bulls, he attempted 15 shots. He hadn't taken 15 shots his whole career. In fact, that was the total number of shots he took his rookie season. But last night, all 15 shots seemed like good looks.

The one he flushed to set his career high was nice. The kind where one minute the defender forgets about him and the next he sees Perkins on the big screen. Perkins turned a sneaky pass from Rondo into a fierce two-handed flush for 2 of his career-high 25 points.

"The crazy thing about it, going into the game, we don't know who's going to have the big night, but we just know somebody's going to come up big. That's the good thing about our team, you just never know," he said.

But on a team full of mentors, everyone seemed glad Perkins scored the big points.

Brian Scalabrine pointed to Perkins's hands and vision.

"If he catches the ball, he's already looking to see where he's going to shoot the ball," Scalabrine said.

For the pseudo player-coach who spends practices working with him, Sam Cassell saw it coming.

"The one thing with Perk," said Cassell, "is he's got to get opportunities. Once he gets opportunities, he's going to perform."

As the head coach who told Perkins earlier in the day that if he got back to setting picks instead of trying to score, then he'd start scoring more, Doc Rivers took it as kind of an "I told you so."

"Today, Perk came out and did his job," Rivers said. "Completely. He set picks. And by setting picks, now they have to help on Ray. And who got all the shots? It was Perk."

And for the fiery side of the Celtics' three-headed monster, Garnett himself, what he loved seeing most was Perkins's poise. Perkins has taken more than enough knocks for leading the team in technical fouls.

"I thought from last year to this year he's a lot more patient," Garnett said. "He's a very emotional player. I love that about him. He plays with a lot of fire. At the same time, he's put a lot of poise in his game. He's actually under control in a lot of situations."

Those are the situations, the ones that allow him to thrive, something he's understanding more every day.

"The biggest thing," Perkins said, "is you've got to look at yourself in the mirror and be honest with yourself and figure out what you've got to work on, and I just try to build on that and try to keep improving."

To this day, Garnett said, he still sees Perkins coming in the gym at 10 at night.

"You see it, and it's good to see it pays off in games," Garnett said. "You root for guys who really put the hours in."

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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