For New Englanders, watching Kendrick Perkins play in Boston for a team other than the Celtics is akin to watching NBA players play in a game that doesn't count.
You root, sure, but there's something depressing about it.
The trade that sent Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Oklahoma City Thunder last season for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic might be one of the most controversial in Boston sports history, and that's saying a lot considering Perkins's skill set. Perk's a big, strong, hard-working, likable player who will never be a star. But his intensity on the court and aw-shucks demeanor off it pretty much assure that you'll be in his corner.
Perkins has plenty of folks in his corner Saturday night, drawing the loudest ovation of any player during pregame introductions. The support rubbed off on Perkins, who undoubtedly was the game's leading scorer, though no official stats were kept.
"I never knew how much I missed being here," said Perkins. "Definitely missed the whole city of Boston, the whole area of New England. It just felt good to be back playing basketball in Boston. It was a whole lot of fun today."
Perkins spent almost eight seasons in Boston, endearing himself to fans with his unselfish play and trademark scowl. The Celtics, as you may have heard, never lost a playoff series with a healthy starting lineup of Perkins, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. Perkins said tonight that once he got the call from Rondo, he knew he was playing in the charity game.
"This city's been good to me since I came into the NBA as a young man at 18," said Perkins. "I never take it for granted and I definitely appreciate all the support when I come back to the New England area. You know I hated to leave. It was just fun to be back."
Perkins appears to have lost weight and added muscle, an inherent contradiction that might not be believed until you see him play. Perkins said he's been rehabbing and working out a lot this offseason to try and take pressure off of his knees. Perkins was nursing an injured left knee last season both in Oklahoma and with the Celtics. He said the injury limited him in both places, but said he is now stronger than ever.
On his great physical shape, Perkins said, "I thought the season was going to start, but it hasn't yet."
Perkins also touched on the NBA labor situation, making his case or the league's rank and file to have a larger voice. If it were up to him, he said the players would hold a vote on the current proposal.
"It's never been in my control, but I feel like we're going to come to an agreement that's good for both sides," said Perkins. "You've got a lot of guys. Every guy feels different in my eyes. Some guys may want to take the deal, some guys may say they don't want to take the deal. I think the biggest thing for the players is that we all stick together, because we know the owners are going to do the same.
"I think if both sides put their pride aside we can get a deal done. I think both sides have been really prideful. I think if both sides drop their pride and come in with an open mind and an open heart I think we can get a deal done."