The Celtics coaching staff dramatically shook up the lineup last night against the Bobcats, starting Kendrick Perkins instead of Mark Blount .
It may have helped as the Celtics pulled out a thrilling win, 90-89.
Coach Doc Rivers wants "character" guys, who play tough defense, on the floor and Perkins fits that description. But Perkins picked up two quick fouls just four minutes into the game, forcing Rivers to go to his bench sooner than he would have liked. Al Jefferson replaced Perkins and played seven minutes before he picked up his third personal. Ryan Gomes went in for Jefferson.
All the while Blount sat at the end of the bench. Despite the Celtics' foul trouble, Blount remained there for the first half and the whole game.
When asked how disappointed he was with Blount's recent play, Rivers said, "I don't want to get into personal things. We've got to rebound. Our point guard has more rebounds than our 5. That should tell you all you need to know."
The 7-foot Blount is averaging 3.6 rebounds in 30.2 minutes per game. Regular starting point guard Delonte West is averaging 4.0 rebounds in 31.6 minutes.
While Rivers did not want to publicly criticize Blount, the fact the veteran center has reverted to last year's poor defensive form must be difficult for the coach to take. During the offseason, Rivers and executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge met with Blount and his agent, Mark Bartelstein , to clear the air and offer the big man a clean slate. When training camp started, Rivers was full of praise for Blount and his work ethic.
Now, Rivers and the Celtics appear back where they started, or at least where they ended last season with Blount seeing limited time during the playoffs. Blount will earn $5.5 million this season for what could be a lot of time on the bench. Including this season, Blount has five years left on his contract worth approximately $34 million.
It remains uncertain how long Rivers will keep Blount out of the starting lineup and on the sideline. Jefferson (7 points, four rebounds in 12 minutes last night) is still regaining his form after spraining his left ankle in the preseason. Perkins (7 points, six rebounds in 25 minutes) has earned more time, though not necessarily the starting job on a regular basis.
"They're both young," said Rivers of Perkins and Jefferson. "They're both improving."
He says, he says
West missed his second game with a left hip pointer. The point guard called his absence "precautionary" and said he would "definitely" be back Monday night when the Celtics play the Magic at the TD Banknorth Garden.
Rivers had a different medical opinion from trainer Ed Lacerte .
"It didn't sound too promising for the next game, honestly, even though Delonte said he could play in that game," said Rivers. "I hope Delonte is right on that one."
When West showed the bruised area around his hip, there was a 3-inch-long floor burn and significant swelling. He has difficulty moving his left arm above his head and twisting his torso. But the main concern is the back spasms that came after West suffered the hip pointer in a hard fall Tuesday at Cleveland. If West comes back too soon, the spasms could complicate the injury and force him to miss weeks, not days, more.
"The pain is significantly better than it was [Thursday], so I think at this point, it's a matter of a day or two before I can take full contact," said West. "I'm more hurt than injured."
Green in green
With West deactivated, Gerald Green suited up for the first time in the regular season. Green healed quicker than expected from the strained groin he suffered while dunking prior to the Celtics' matchup with the Cavaliers. He credits lots of ice and electric stimulation for the speedy recovery. The Celtics' top pick in the 2005 draft was giddy as he completed his pregame workout at the Garden, though he did not expect to play. "This feels real good to have the uniform on," said Green. "This is what I've been waiting for. You've got to start small. You never know what [can happen]." On his quick return to form, Rivers said, "It's hilarious. That's a great example of youth because Eddie told me when he did it in Cleveland, he's out for three weeks." . . . Green tested his groin with a one-on-one game vs. Tony Allen yesterday morning. Green won, but Rivers continues to be impressed with the progress made by Allen, who looks like he has his explosiveness back. Allen hopes to be medically cleared to practice Tuesday. He has been rigorously testing his surgically repaired right knee (torn meniscus) this week and will undergo an MRI before he can participate in team workouts. "It felt kind of tender [yesterday], good but a little soreness," said Allen. "It's coming slowly but surely. Throughout the season, I'm going to try to get better every day." Allen has taken encouragement from Ricky Davis , who underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus when he played for Charlotte. "I think he thought he was going to lose his hops and his speed and stuff," said Davis. "But I told him, `It's nothing. Don't worry about it.' As long as he works hard to get back, keeps the rest of his body in shape, he'll be all right."