Notebook: Perkins Pushed Back; Jefferson "50-50" vs. Heat

By Peter F. Stringer
Tuesday, February 28

It's been the same question for the last week or so: When are Perk and Al coming back?

Which news do you want first? The good or the bad?

Al Jefferson
Jefferson is helped off the floor by his teammates after injuring his ankle against the Clippers on February 3.

For Kendrick Perkins, the road to recovery just got longer. While the team had hoped to clear him to play, the Celtics are now likely looking at another two weeks before Perkins can likely return to the lineup, according to Doc Rivers. The team wants to make sure they don't rush him back prematurely, and with the team's recent success without their injured front court youngsters, it doesn't hurt to wait a little longer to be sure he's completely healed.

"At least a week, maybe two more weeks," said Rivers on the new timetable for Perkins' return. "It's not really a setback. We thought he would get clearance and he didn't get it."

As for Al Jefferson, Rivers hoped he'd be able to play at some point during the Celtics' West Coast road trip. But after a hard workout on Friday, Jefferson's injured ankle didn't respond well and was painful Saturday morning, so he had to rest it for two days before resuming work today at practice in Waltham, with eyes now set on returning for Wednesday's tilt with the Miami Heat.

"I think he's close," Rivers said of Jefferson. "I think he could play tomorrow."

Tuesday's practice was somewhat brief as the C's wanted to give Wally Szczerbiak (knee) and Paul Pierce (elbow bursitis) a little extra rest after returning from the road trip and the inherent jet lag and time zone change. Pierce sat most of the practice out and Szczerbiak went at half speed, but Jefferson went full tilt as he looks to return to the floor. Jefferson worked out with the second unit while Tony Allen spent most of his time with the first unit in Pierce's spot.

"We didn't go very hard. Paul didn't go, Wally's sore, we couldn't go hard, and with Al on the floor we didn't go hard," said Rivers, who placed a 50-50 chance on Jefferson returning against the Heat. Jefferson agreed with that assessment, and was taking a wait-and-see approach to his status for Wednesday. He stayed after practice for an extended free throw drill against Dwayne Jones while a sizeable media contingent awaited word from him on the ankle.

"Today I went back at it hard so it depends on how it feels tomorrow," said Jefferson, who was glad to be back practicing with the team because, as he joked, he "hadn't been yelled at in a long time."

When asked what he was yelled at for, he said, "the usual stuff" (read: defense).

If he does play, Jefferson doesn't expect to play many minutes, but then again, matching up against Shaq usually results in guys picking up fouls pretty quickly, so he may have to play more than he plans on. Still, Jefferson hopes to maximize his performance in any playing time he gets and thinks that he'll be ready to step in and make an impact.

"This is my third time, and the first two times I worried about it, my timing was a little bit off," said Jefferson of his history with ankle injuries. "This time, hopefully it will be a little bit different because I'm prepared for it. Before I got hurt I was playing real well, but I've just got to get back rolling. I don't have time to build back up."

Where Was Gomes?

The other question surrounding the Celtics these days: Why has it taken so long for Ryan Gomes to get a chance to show his stuff? Rivers weighed in on the issue in his post-practice address.

"He was on the bench and I didn't play him, so it's my fault. Everything else is," joked Rivers, who cited the trade and injuries as the reason the rookie is just now getting an extended opportunity. "Ryan's been playing great, and the more minutes he gets, he gets more comfortable and I think he's starting to be more aggressive."

Gomes, who split time between the end of the bench and the inactive list in the first half of the season, has started the last seven games and is averaging 12.6 points and 9.3 rebounds in that time, while also shooting an impressive 60% from the field. He notched three double-doubles, posted an impressive 17-board night against the Portland Trailblazers, and the Celtics won five of the seven games.

Still, with Jefferson nearing a return and also playing the same position as Gomes, Rivers talked about the different things that Jefferson and Gomes bring to the table. He noted that while Jefferson is more aggressive in the post and a more talented offensive player, Gomes is a smarter player at the position.

Playing four years of college basketball against defenses more advanced than the ones Jefferson saw in high school is probably the most important factor at work.

Yet despite Gomes' streak of impressive outings, Rivers isn't committing to anything in terms of Gomes' position as a starter. He did reference Wally Pip, the old Yankees first baseman who was famously replaced by Lou Gehrig, and if Gomes continues to post double-doubles, Rivers will be hard-pressed to cut into his minutes. But in all likelihood, Gomes will see at least a minor decline in minutes if Jefferson is ready to go.

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