Kendrick Perkins just finished another day of strenuous rehabilitation on his surgically repaired right knee and was exhausted. The Celtics center hasn’t participated in basketball activities since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Lakers.
He told the Globe Friday afternoon that his goal is to return in late January and said he is fine with the Celtics signing of Shaquille O’Neal to fill his vacant spot at center.
“I thought it was a great pickup for what we got him for,” Perkins said by phone from Texas. “Shaq is a Hall of Famer. He can always help us. I think it was a great pickup. I am glad that he is on the team. We just got one goal, and that’s just trying to win the ring.”
Team president Danny Ainge said last week that Perkins would have to work to regain his starting spot in the lineup when he returned to full health. Perkins said he is not intimidated by that challenge.
“I don’t see it threatening me at all,” he said. “I gotta work hard. I know I gotta fight to get back to where I was. It’s no problem with me. Hard work is not a problem.”
It was initially thought that Perkins tore his medial collateral and posterior collateral ligaments but his ACL was intact. But it was just the opposite. Further examination in Boston revealed a torn ACL while the other two ligaments were secure.
“I’ve been doing a lot of rehabbing, make sure I get my work in every day,” he said. “Make sure I keep my weight down, just taking it one day at a time. I’m walking without crutches, so that’s a plus. The swelling is my leg went down so everything’s coming around pretty quickly. Right now I can’t work out like I want to, I can’t hoop. But everything else is doing great.”
The Celtics said he has been motivated by the speedy return of Patriots receiver Wes Welker, who made his first NFL appearance last night since tearing his ACL in early January.
“It’s a mental thing for me,” he said. “If you are a hard worker, you are going to get back faster. I am putting all my time into my rehab.”
Perkins said he is working out in a leg brace and has yet to begin running. He did not have ACL surgery until July 6, three weeks after the injury.
“It’s not an easy process but I am just taking it one day at a time and put all my focus into my rehab,” he said. “Don’t think about coming back, don’t think about returning. Just keep it one day at a time.”
Perkins said he thought the team had enough frontcourt depth last season with Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis. The club added Jermaine O’Neal to replace the retired Wallace and the signing of Shaquille O’Neal gives Boston perhaps the deepest — and oldest — frontcourt in the NBA.
The Celtics are one of the favorites in the East with the return of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and coach Doc Rivers, all of whom could have potentially bolted after the season.
“Those are great guys, Jermaine and Shaq, who should help pretty well,” he said. “It’s good to have everybody back. We’re pretty much all like a family. We got very good chemistry going and guys got one goal in mind and that’s to win the ring. I’m glad everybody is back.”