The Beast Gets some PT
December 26, 2004
Frustrated. Unhappy. Disheartened. When asked how difficult it was to sit and watch, that was how Kendrick Perkins described himself. Following his 10th DNP-coach's decision of the season in Cleveland eight days ago, Perkins sounded downright desperate in his desire for playing time from Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
"What can I do?" Perkins asked. "Hold a gun to his head?"Perkins collected another DNP-CD Tuesday in Miami. But the next night against New York, it was defense that provided Perkins with the biggest opportunity of his career.
Perkins earned career highs in rebounds (13) and minutes (25) during the Celtics' 114-109 win over the Knicks. While extra playing time opened up when power forward Raef LaFrentz went down with a mildly sprained left ankle in Miami, Rivers said Perkins was due for a bigger role anyway. Proof of that may have been the fact that Perkins logged five more minutes than rookie phenom and first-time starter Al Jefferson.
Until the Knicks game, Perkins had been hidden in the shadow of the team's other underage player.
"It was a big shock when they called my name to come off the bench first [against New York]," said Perkins. "[Rivers] had to call it like three or four times . . . I didn't know what to expect coming into this year. I just go hard. When my time comes, it's going to come and I'm going to be ready. My goal has been the same - to get down and defend, go out and set picks, get people open, play team ball."
Jefferson has been an obvious focal point, with Rivers giving the rookie as much playing time as possible. But, many observers often forget, Perkins is only 55 days older than Jefferson. Technically, Perkins has one more year of NBA experience than Jefferson, but that year was spent in an all-too-familiar position - sitting and watching.
Perkins played just 35 minutes during his rookie campaign. When Perkins plays tonight in San Antonio, and there's no doubt he has earned more minutes, it will be the first time friends and family members who make the trip from his hometown of Beaumont, Texas, actually will see the big man take the court in person.
Unwilling to sit idly by and watch a repeat of last season, Perkins met with Rivers during a mid-December stretch when minutes were few and far between. There was only one topic.
"I talked to him about a week ago and I asked him what I needed to do to get some playing time," said Perkins. "He told me I needed to defend and rebound. For the last two weeks, I've just been concentrating on that and making the extra pass . . . I don't know about my NBA future, but I know right now this season, the team needs rebounding and defense, so that's what I'm going to do.
"At times last year, I felt like I could come into the game and produce, knowing what we were going through. But at the same time, I was a rookie. I had a lot to learn last year. And I still have a lot to learn. But I can be out there . . . Not taking anything away from the coaches last year, I just feel like the coaches this year communicate a lot more, since they've all been in our position. I think that's good. They talk with us. They're like our friends. They're like our teammates. They're not like coaches. I thought that was big."
Prior to the last couple weeks of practice, Perkins had not displayed the kind of effort on defense Rivers wanted. The coach sees a lot of potential in the long-armed, broadly built 6-foot-10-inch, 280-pounder, believing the second-year center "could be our best defensive player."
Rivers has tried to balance encouragement with toughness to bring out the best, or at least better defensive play, in Perkins. Playing time was always the understood reward. But Rivers did not want to play Perkins for two minutes here and two minutes there once he proved he deserved more time. Rivers wanted to give the youngster an extended, confidence-building stretch, though he did not know when or where that would come.
Perkins commented that receiving 25 minutes in one game was worth the wait.
"I have a theory, if I play two minutes [well], it will give him a reason to play me four. So, it's kind of hard. It's a lot of pressure when you're only playing two minutes . . . When he gives you time to shine, you've got to grow up."
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