Celtics coach Doc Rivers is constantly employing the oldest of sports cliches to keep Kendrick Perkins in line.
``When he stays in his role he's fine,'' Rivers said after yesterday's practice. ``When he doesn't stay within himself is when he gets in trouble. He stops setting picks and starts thinking about his offense.''
Worse still, the muscular 7-footer loses hold in the area that is his reason for being in the NBA: post defense. Nothing could sum up his primary responsibility today against the NBA's best young big man, the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, than exactly that: post defense.
The Celtics lost their first game of the season Nov. 18 in Orlando, Fla. Howard had it his way in the paint that day, going for 24 points. The center was such a load in the paint, he attempted 20 free throws. His Shaq-like 10-for-20 performance from the line is what kept the Celtics in the game until the last 20 seconds.
Howard's bullish attack sent Perkins to the bench with early foul trouble and ultimately led to Kevin Garnett fouling out of the game.
So when Perkins searches for an example of not staying within himself, this is the game that comes to mind.
``In the first Orlando game I played soft, and I think that had a bad effect on everyone,'' Perkins said. ``As long as I set picks, and be the enforcer on this team - which I have to be - then we come out strong. But when I don't do my role, we lose. And that's a proven fact.''
It may sound as though Perkins is being too hard on himself, but there's a good chance that his coach doesn't mind that harsh train of thought. Not so long as the player who is supposed to have Garnett's back sticks to the plan.
No need for Perkins to stumble into a man-to-man contest against Howard. Perkins couldn't hope to maintain such a battle on the offense end.
``I look at it that we're playing against Dwight, not Perk,'' Rivers said.
Said Perkins: ``I do look at playing against him as a measuring stick. He's the most dominant big man in the league. He's like a baby Shaq with the way he's playing right now. Half of his field goals are dunks. But I don't want to get caught up in it. Our team defense is great, and I have to remember that.''