After seeing only mop-up duty over the first 2 1/2 months of the season, Leon Powe has become one of the rocks in the Celtics rotation.
And Kendrick Perkins has a theory.
``Ever since he had his little boy, he's been on a whole other level,'' said Perkins. ``I don't know what it is. He might need to have another one.'' True enough, after rolling up DNPs by coach's decision in 22 of the first 36 games and playing sparingly in the others, Powe missed the Jan. 16 game against Portland to be there for the birth of his first child. Two nights later, the second-year power forward had 10 points and six rebounds against Philadelphia, and he's been a regular since, going for a career-high 25 points and 11 rebounds in Miami on Tuesday.
But he doesn't want to kid around too much for the time being.
``I'm really happy that I've started to play well since I had my son,'' said Powe when apprised of Perkins' brainstorm, ``but I ain't having another kid right now.''
The reason behind the rise in Powe's minutes is as simple as child's play, according to Doc Rivers.
``Because he's earned them,'' said the coach. ``He really has. He's gotten better at running our stuff. He's learning now how to come out of timeouts and execute stuff, so it allows us to keep him on the floor.
``He's never been questioned with toughness, and Leon can score a little bit, too. But it's nice that he's starting to see time and space and he's letting things develop instead of just going fast. I'm really proud of him.'' It's not a stretch to say that the quiet Powe is a favorite around the Celtics dressing room and throughout the organization. This is, after all, the same guy who gave out handwritten thank you notes to the coaches and team personnel after his rookie season.
``He works hard and he's a great guy,'' said Perkins. ``Everyone's happy for Leon. He wasn't playing hardly at all, but when his name was called he came in and he's given us good stuff.''
Paul Pierce believes Powe can also provide that stuff when the playoffs come.
``You always can use what Leon does,'' said Pierce. ``He doesn't change. The great thing about Leon is that he's been given the opportunity and he was ready for it. Before the last six games, Leon wasn't probably even stepping on the court, but he was practicing hard every day. Now he's getting the chance and he's stepping up. He's showing incredible maturity as a young player to be able to wait and to come in and respond the way he has. ``He gets to the open spots, he sets screens, he rebounds the ball offensively. That's going to help us all season and in the playoffs. Like I said, Leon's not going to change.''
Not even his view about the off days. Now that he's playing, don't expect him to lighten up when the lights aren't bright. ``It helps having the time in games to get comfortable, but it all starts in practice,'' Powe said. ``You can't not practice good and then go out and expect to play good. It don't work like that.''