Notebook: Perkins Anxious to Return; Wally’s Woes

Chalk it up to youthful exuberance, inexperience or just unbridled optimism, but Thursday after a practice in which he didn't participate, Kendrick Perkins seemed pretty confident that he would be back in a week's time ready to play against the Milwaukee Bucks next Friday night at the TD Banknorth Garden.

"I hurt my shoulder really bad, but I think I'm ready to play," said Perkins.

Whether he misunderstood the team doctors' latest estimates or is just trying to remain positive is unclear. But Coach Doc Rivers isn't banking on having his young center back next week, as much as he'd like to see him in the lineup for his undermanned squad.

"I wouldn't count on that," cautioned Rivers about 10 minutes after Perkins spoke with the media. "That's Perk telling you that, not the doctors. I don't expect to see Perk in a week. That would be great and it's good that he's saying that, I just don't expect it to happen."

Rivers said he expected that the doctors would look at shoulder again in seven more days and re-evaluate Perkins' return timetable.

"I'd be shocked - I'd be very happy - but I'd be shocked if we saw Perk in seven days," said Rivers.

Time will tell if he can return in a week, but coaches and doctors are the ones who ultimately decide when players are truly ready to return to the court. Perkins wasn't denying that he was anxious to get back on the floor for the Celtics.

"You just want to be part of it. The team is playing so well," said Perkins.

Wally Still Wrestling with Knee Woes

It seems Wally Szczerbiak can't catch a break in 2006. First, he had his life turned upside down with the first trade of his NBA career just days before his wife gave berth to their second child. He was battling a cold at the same time, so just finding time to sleep was a challenge. Finally, by the time he was able to catch his breath and relocate his family from Minnesota to Boston during the All-Star Break, his left knee had started "locking up" on him from time to time, limiting his mobility and forcing him to miss almost two full games on the West Coast trip.

He's fought through the injury, and while Rivers wants to keep Szczerbiak to under 35 minutes a night, that's proven to be a tall order. Because he wants to have either Paul Pierce or Szczerbiak on the floor with the second unit at all times, it's tough for Rivers to keep Szczerbiak under that 35-minute mark, especially with the Celtics playing so many closely contested games.

"In the fourth quarter, we had to get him back in the game. That pushed him over the number. That's not the number we wanted him to go," said Rivers of Szczerbiak's 42-minute night against the Miami Heat Wednesday. "Playing Wally 40 minutes is not beneficial to anybody."

It would also be easier to for Rivers to stick to his guns with Szczerbiak's playing time if the bench was scoring more consistently, but until that problem is resolved, the dilemma isn't going anywhere. The Celtics got just nine points from their reserves in Wednesday's loss to Miami.

"If it's not happening, the starters are going to have to play big minutes," said Szczerbiak of the bench's scoring problems. "You do what you can to win games."

As for his own health, Szczerbiak is doing what he can to improve his knee. He's spent extra time in the gym trying to strengthen his knee, and has even been lifting on game days to try to keep the joint from tightening up on him.

"There's still something going on in there, but at this point I've resorted to not worrying about any fatigue in the legs," said Szczerbiak, who's already resigned to the fact that he'll be dealing with the knee for the rest of the season.

He said that he isn't sure if off-season surgery is in the cards but acknowledged that it could be a possibility.

"I don't know, we're going to re-evaluate that as the season goes," said Szczerbiak of a potential surgery on the knee. "It's not any structural ligament damage. It's just swelling up and barking at me."

Comeback Continues for Jefferson

After finishing up his workout with the Celtics' reserve team at HealthPoint Thursday, Al Jefferson wasted no time getting down to business. He yanked off his right sock and sneaker, unlaced his ankle brace and tore off the athletic tape. He then placed a neoprene half-sock on his toes and tried to mask the wince as he dropped his foot into a yellow mop bucket full of ice before chatting with reporters.

"It's getting stronger day by day," said Jefferson. "It felt real sore this morning when I woke up, but I expected that anyway. After I warmed up, it stared to feel pretty good."

The fact that he was able to practice after a 22-minute, seven-point, five-rebound effort in Wednesday's loss to the Heat was encouraging. Jefferson insists that this is the last time his ankles will keep him off the court, and he's sporting a stronger tape job that's taking some time getting used to.

"They call it the 'Karl Malone' tape job, and then I wear the ankle brace too. It's something I'll have to get used to," said Jefferson. "I don't want to go through it again so I'm willing to do what I've got to do."

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