Let's flashback a few years to 2007. Before Kevin Garnett landed in the Bean. Before the draft-day deal for Ray Allen. All the way back to that year's lottery night, when the Celtics had enough ping-pong balls to assume that they could land Greg Oden and possibly start turning the franchise around.
The person cheering the hardest for the ping-pong balls to bounce the wrong way? Kendrick Perkins. He knew bringing in a potential star center could have put him out of a job.
Perkins had his TV tuned to the draft, but let's just say he didn't have his fingers crossed.
"I might have been out of here," he said. "So I wasn't really pushing for anything. I'm sorry."
When Boston ended up with the fifth pick, almost everybody with any relation to a Celtics logo was devastated.
"I was prepared to expect whatever," he said. "But I'm glad it turned out the way it did."
So here we are three years later. Perkins has a ring. He and Garnett are the bad-cop, worse-cop of the Celtics' defense. But Perkins's ACL injury will keep him out until February and the Celtics not only brought in one replacement, they brought in two.
They added Jermaine O'Neal last month introduced Shaquille O'Neal today. Shaq joked that for at least the start of the season, "I can guarantee that at least one O'Neal will be on the floor."
But what happens when Perkins returns? The half-full glass says having two quality centers means Perkins doesn't have to rush back. The half-empty glass asks what if Perkins doesn't have a job to come back to? Celtics president Danny Ainge tried to be reassuring.
"It does take pressure off of Kendrick," Ainge said. "He has a very bright future and he knows we think very highly of him. We're not certain though, when he is 100 percent and this allows us to be patient with Kendrick.
"At the same time, I'm sure he's going to be worried and nervous since we are going to win games with this front line even when he's not playing. I'll be sitting with and talking with Kendrick throughout this whole process and hopefully he can get just focus on getting himself healthy and competing for his job back."
Perkins and Shaq have pretty recent history. Perkins had to take a couple stitches this past may during the Cleveland series. He also took a sharp elbow to the neck. O'Neal wasn't one to sugarcoat anything, but he said the battles were in the past.
ďPerk is a very tough defender; probably one of the best big defenders in the
league," O'Neal said. "It was only on-the-court-battles-slash-marketing. Heís a guy thatís not going to back down, Iím not going to back down. So I think if anything it was good for TV.
"Now, being on the same team, I will give him all the knowledge I have accumulated over the past 18 years. Have we had battles? Of course we have. Have we had good battles and bad battles? Of course we have, but thatís all over now because weíre teammates.Ē