We've all watched Kendrick Perkins grow up. When he was drafted, he was a big, raw, doughy piece of clay. The Celtics sat him out to dry for a year or two and in that time the trainers and medical staff turned him into granite. Since then the coaching staff has been chiseling away at his game little by little, turning him into a legit NBA starter. When Kevin Garnett and Tom Thibodeau arrived and started preaching defense, it was like Perkins found his calling and his destiny.
Of course Kendrick himself deserves his full share of the credit too. He's been patient, coachable, and hard working all along. There are no ego problems with Perk. In fact, he is one of the more outspoken proponents of the Ubuntu "team ego" concept. He understands his limitations but there's no challenge in the world that he'll back down from.
Yeah, I've pretty much been in the tank for Perkins since day one. Call it my soft spot for big guys who work hard and protect the basket like a mother bear watching over her cubs.
Ponder this: Perk has 6 years of NBA experience, yet he's still younger than 2nd round draft choice Lester Hudson.
Now ponder this: Dwight Howard averaged 20.6 points a game in the regular season but just 16.4 against the Celtics. (He averaged 24 a game against Philly, 25.8 a game against Cleveland before falling back to earth in the finals with 15.7.)
And get this. He's still getting better. Last year he became much more fluid with his offensive moves to the basket. There were even times when he started hitting that free throw line jumper. But of course his bread and butter is still on the defensive side. I predict he'll get a lot more votes for the All Defensive Team this year.
Imagine how much better he's going to be this year when he doesn't have to worry about what will happen if he picks up a couple quick fouls. Getting KG back and adding Sheed to the rotation frees up Perkins to be more aggressive - if that's even possible. Perkins is even getting more and more slack from the refs who now have more respect for his game. (Now if he can just cut down on the predictable moving screen at the top of the key we'll really be in business.)
About the only thing that concerns me headed into this season is Kendrick's chronic shoulder issues. That arm can pop out seemingly at any time. He's a gamer and about as tough as they come, but you have to wonder if he's going to really miss some significant time at some point. Which makes the added depth of the frontcourt that much more valuable this offseason. Thankfully he's got a very reasonable contract (in part because of those chronic injury concerns) so a worst case scenario doesn't hurt the team long term.
Aside from that variable, you pretty much know what you are going to get with Perkins, and that's a good thing. It is comforting even. At times we take him for granted because there are so many other bright shining stars on this team. But what a luxury it is to have a big man that we can depend on. How many GMs have thrown bad money after good at 7 footers that became regret contracts before the ink was dry?
But you know what I enjoy the most? The fact that we got to see Perkins grow all the way up in Boston. Big Al, Ryan Gomes, Delonte West, and others have moved on, but Perk and Rondo are the ones that stuck. Perkins was drafted in Danny's first draft as GM and he is now an NBA Champion.
I don't know how to put it any other way than this: I'm proud of him. It has been great watching him develop and I can't wait to see what he can do next.