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Technically, he has to grow up

Celtics center Kendrick Perkins’s habit of arguing every call vehemently hasn’t won him any brownie points with NBA referees. Celtics center Kendrick Perkins’s habit of arguing every call vehemently hasn’t won him any brownie points with NBA referees. (Jim Davis/ Globe Staff)
By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / May 28, 2010

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Just because the NBA saw the error of referee Eddie F. Rush’s ways doesn’t mean Kendrick Perkins can go back to being the old Kendrick. That dude needs to be rescinded the way his seventh postseason technical was by the NBA yesterday.

Perkins was suspended for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals for about 14 hours, time enough to reflect on his constant gyrations after sometimes obvious foul calls. His belief is that he never commits a foul and that the calls never go his way.

He has some valid points. Perkins doesn’t get the respect he deserves from NBA officials, mainly because he is often matched up against higher-profile players, such as Orlando’s Dwight Howard in this series. Elite players are not going to draw quick whistles because their physical play is viewed as a byproduct of their athleticism and stature.

Howard’s defensive prowess and reputation for shot-blocking allow him to get away with rugged play. After he chased down Rajon Rondo to block a layup in the second quarter of Game 5, he flattened Rondo but was allowed to sprint away foul-free.

Later in the quarter, Perkins reached in and knocked an entry pass away from Howard, only to have Rush call a foul. That prompted Perkins, rightfully so, to dispute the call. But he has to find a better way to deal with officials because his pleas are ineffective.

There is a way to get through to officials without storming away in disgust. Perkins can’t afford to argue every call vehemently. Rarely does he accept an interior foul call without a hand wave or a “who me?’’ expression. That wears on veteran officials, and Perkins is among the league leaders in technicals as a result.

Perkins’s reactions do nothing but add to his reputation as a surly player with little control of his emotions. That’s not entirely true, but when was the last time Perkins approached Dick Bavetta and said, “Yeah Dick, I fouled him’’?

Acknowledgment is the first step, Perk.

“Honestly, Perk created the problem as far as his emotional overloads, you know what I mean?’’ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers yesterday, who makes no bones about his dislike for referees calling double technicals when players get into dustups. “Obviously Perk has to clean up his emotions, but it’s a fine line. You need him to be emotional, too, as a player.’’

Perkins has been credited for effective defense against Howard but he has to understand that Howard is widely viewed as a good guy, a mammoth man with a gentle personality (although Glen Davis won’t attest to his gentleness). That reputation helps Howard with officials, and when he tangles with Perkins, Howard is never going to be viewed as an instigator.

Perkins has to realize how critical his role is in his team’s success and act accordingly. If he indeed wants to be a leader, he has to push aside the spoiled-brat act and keep himself in games. Another technical in these playoffs and he really will be suspended.

And this should not affect the physicality of his play. Rivers wants to keep Perkins on the court, but if he commits six honest fouls against Howard with no technicals or those tricky “double technicals,’’ Rivers won’t complain about his behavior.

Rivers has discussed technical fouls repeatedly with Perkins as his career has progressed. He told reporters in Phoenix following a late-December loss that Perkins needed to “grow up.’’ Perkins improved his behavior and avoided the mandatory one-game suspension by one technical.

But it seems Perkins realized that the playoffs provided a clean slate, and he has reverted to his old complaining ways. He will never get the advantages of his Orlando counterpart and he has to accept that. Perkins has 22 fouls in the series. Howard has 16.

“You know, Kendrick has to be allowed to play, and he has to be allowed to be physical,’’ Rivers said. “It’s amazing how this has gone so far. Kendrick’s in foul trouble, and he’s not the most physical player on the floor.

“Dwight Howard is clearly the most physical player on the floor. You know, we keep telling Perkins he has to be physical as hell, and he says, ‘Yeah, but I end up in foul trouble.’

“We are really concerned about that. And I’m just going to try to get Perk to be Perk and play and not be concerned with techs, not be concerned with fouls, and just go out and play. But that’s very difficult to do.’’

Letting Perk be Perk hasn’t worked out so far in the postseason. Controlling his emotions and remaining that brooding enforcer who concentrates on rebounding is what the Celtics need. Yesterday’s reprieve provides him another opportunity to be that Perk.

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com.

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