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Celtics notebook

Enforcer Perkins back with a bang

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By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / January 29, 2011

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PHOENIX — The adrenaline rush was justifiable. Kendrick Perkins, rehabbing tirelessly in an attempt to come back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, had worked himself into overdrive. He was constantly walking through the Celtics’ practice facility drenched in sweat. After games, when his teammates would be putting on their street clothes, Perkins would be wearing his warm-ups, preparing for more work.

When he checked into Tuesday’s game at TD Garden, he was returning after a long, excruciating wait, so there was emotion. But Thursday night in Portland, after a cross-country flight to play four games on the road, Perkins felt like he was back to work.

He punched the clock for 21 minutes, and his 10-point, nine-rebound performance made it hard for coach Doc Rivers to take him off the floor.

“Seems like I’ve been on vacation for about six months now,’’ Perkins said. “I’ve got to earn my check.’’

Rivers sat Perkins the entire fourth quarter, adhering loosely to the 16-18-minute limitation he set, trying to ease Perkins back.

Over his eight seasons in Boston, he’s taken on the role of a team bouncer, and when things got too physical — when Trail Blazers big man Joel Przybilla’s screen blurred the line between clean and dirty — Perkins stepped in.

“Sometimes you’ve got to set a tone,’’ Perkins said. “Teammates are going to take up for teammates no matter how it goes. I just thought he was playing a little too dirty the whole game. So I just told him to chill out with that. It wasn’t nothing. I was just telling him to chill out.’’

Perkins’s scowl had been a missing element in the Celtics’ starting lineup over the first half of the season.

“Perk looks mean all day,’’ Rivers said. “I’ve never seen him not look that way. But he is an enforcer. We know that. Przybilla was trying to be physical, that’s what they wanted to do. Perk’s going nowhere. So we’re good with that.’’

Kevin Garnett said, “What you see in Perk is just an example of what our team is, each guy standing up for each other.’’

West out West Making his first extended road trip since breaking his right (non-shooting) wrist in November, Delonte West prepared as if he would play even though he won’t likely return until the Celtics return home.

In the past few weeks, West has progressed quickly, shooting with his wrist braced, getting the brace removed, doing some light catching and dribbling last week, and absorbing harder passes this week. He said he has an appointment after this four-game trip to determine the next step and possibly clear him to practice.

For now, he thought it was in his best interests to travel with the team.

“With me trying to return shortly, it’s very important that I get a lot of time with the team,’’ West said. “Really getting in the huddles and picking up on the flow of what’s going on out there. It’s not the same watching from home. I’m making sure that I’m not slacking behind when I get back. I’m not missing out on anything.’’

Knowing West was within weeks of returning to the court, Rivers wanted West to travel with the team.

“Whenever a guy gets close, we want him to be around because we may change a play, we may do something,’’ Rivers said.

The last test for West will be absorbing serious contact. The fall he took Nov. 24 against New Jersey was gruesome, and West said he’s afraid of falling again.

“If you look at a game, when a guy falls, he puts his hand down in some kind of way,’’ West said. “So that thought alone gives me nightmares.’’

A real hotshot No one in the league has a hotter hand than Ray Allen, who’s shooting 54.4 percent from the floor and 52.8 percent from 3-point range this month entering last night’s game.

“It gives you more options, obviously,’’ Rivers said. “Ray is the king of creating space. We’ve run more plays that Ray’s had nothing to do with as far as touching the ball, but he was a key part of the play because his presence around the ball gave us space.’’

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

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