In the midst the best game of Kendrick Perkins’s young career the cameras showed him on the bench with Clifford Ray talking in his ear. I was immediately struck by the fact that it was just over two years ago that Ray put in his first day of work with the Boston Celtics. He was brought into mentor youngsters Al Jefferson and Perkins who were 21 and 22, respectively, at the time. Well two years later and it’s safe to say that Ray was a worthwhile addition. Jefferson morphed into one of the most talented low post players in the league and was the key to the deal that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston. Meanwhile, Perkins trimmed down considerably and developed into a dependable big man. And while he was huge in Game 5 in tangible ways, 18 points and 16 rebounds to be precise, Celtics fans know that Perk has been an instrumental part of Boston’s defense all season. Even more important is the fact that Perk has continued to improve. Earlier in the year he fell into a habit of winding up for dunks. That did not end well for him. Since then he has added reverse lay ups to his game and been quicker around the basket in general. And we definitely saw more of Perk’s offensive repertoire tonight. Did I mention his outlet passes?
Six points in closing:
1. Remember when Mark Cuban hired a fleet of assistant coaches with the Mavericks? Cuban argued that he already had a tremendous financial investment in his players. To him a few extra assistants were a worthy investment if they helped him see a return on his players. Why give a young guy a lot of money and fail to provide him with the support he needs to develop and help the organization win? Bottom line assistant coaches can and do make a difference.
2. It would be foolish to give Ray all of the credit for the development of Jefferson and Perkins. Those were two motivated guys that wanted the coaching, put the work in and improved. But it helps to have someone of Ray’s stature around.
3. I know Patrick Ewing is a Hall of Famer. But would Dwight Howard’s game be further along if Ray were still working for Orlando? Is Howard developing his offensive game beyond dunks? To be honest I really don’t know. And a lot of this is speculation. It’s just something to throw out there.
4. Towards the end of the regular season reader Rondo got me at ticket right by Boston’s bench. After the game I wrote the following about Ray:
Clifford Ray was reserved for most of the game. At one point he got animated and yelled, "Make him pay!" several times on a Celtics possession that resulted in a dunk. I can't do justice to just how awesome that was.
That only strengthened my belief that it is good to have Ray on the staff.
5. You really need to check out Shira Springer’s article about Ray joining the Celtics. Why? Apparently Ray’s arms are 3 feet 9 inches long. Also in the notes section Springer talks about the upcoming 2006 draft and some players the Celtics had in for a workout. Danny Ainge described the athleticism of one of those players in the following way, "He’s got jets." Let’s just say Phoenix ended up picking that young man with the 21st pick. Any guesses?
6. Jeff Van Gundy started throwing around nicknames for Perk and the SportsCenter guys were trying out "KP" during the highlights. Don't they know Perk is a Beast.