Perking Up: Center Regaining Health and His Edge, Too

Kendrick Perkins

Kendrick Perkins said that when he saw his teammates stepping up their games, he didn't want to be left behind, and he's regained the fire in his belly as of late. Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty

BOSTON - Maybe Kendrick Perkins is kind of like Bono.

He's just can't perform without The Edge.

There was a hop in Kendrick Perkins' step Wednesday night. Considering that he's been battling plantar fasciitis and is trying to regain his physical conditioning, that's saying something. Because these days, he's boxing guys out with his rear end and flaring his elbows at opponents when he gathers a rebound. And he's got that snarl on his face again.

"Watching Al, Rondo and D-West step their game up to a whole other level, it kind of motivates you. If these guys are stepping their game up, I think I need to do the same thing," Perkins said in the locker room after Wednesday night's 109-88 blowout win over the Atlanta Hawks. "You don't want to get left behind."

While the Hawks were being left behind, Perkins was leading the way in the pivotal third quarter, scoring eight points and grabbing six of his season-high 12 boards in the period. The night before in Chicago, Perkins had eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in just 22 minutes. While his stats pretty much tell the story -- 20 points and 22 rebounds over his last two games in just 49 total minutes -- the view from courtside fills in some of the blanks.

Simply put, Perkins has looked more like the guy teammates dubbed "Swamp Thang", or "Swamp" for short. Then again, that look on his face might be just how he tolerates the pain, which has subsided somewhat, but certainly still lingers. And fatigue is still an issue as well.

"I'm not going to make any excuses, but there is still pain. It's not just like the pain went away," Perkins said. "It's something I'm dealing with, and if I'm on the court, I have to produce. Coach has been saying that they want the old Perk back and I'm just trying to go out there and be myself."

Coach Doc Rivers said after Wednesday's game that thinks that Perkins "played lively" for two games in a row, and attributed his recent success to his body turning the corner as he works his way back from the injury that's hobbled him since early December.

"Probably his foot is feeling better. He's probably in better shape," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said when trying to explain Perkins' resurgence. "Those two things probably allow him to be more aggressive. It's just nice to see he's reacting better."

The old Perk may very well be on his way back. Teammate Al Jefferson says Perkins looks lighter on his feet. He also talked about his deal with Perkins in Chicago.

"It's been a frustrating season for Big Daddy, but he's been working hard." Jefferson said. "Last night, I had to try to hold off Ben [Wallace], and I told him, 'just get every rebound, I'm going to try to hold him off.' And with Josh Smith, I told him, 'Get every board.'"

Pierce Needs a Lift

If Perkins is like Bono, then Paul Pierce will never be confused with the Irish rocker this season, because he's really struggling with Elevation.

Pierce met with reporters for a pregame media session for the first time since before the All-Star Break on Wednesday night, and he spent most of the time talking about his health. While a few weeks ago Pierce was saying that he expected to have his wind back in a week, he's since backed off that assertion and is now saying that he may not be back to full strength until the season ends.

When a reporter mentioned to Pierce that Rivers said he felt Pierce didn't have any lift at the end of Tuesday's game in Chicago, Pierce just laughed.

"I didn't have any lift at the beginning of the game," Pierce said. "Coming off a foot injury, that's my biggest obstacle, and I probably won't get it back until next year, as far as my first step and being able to finish at the rim. It's definitely frustrating. You want to get back where you were right before the injury, [but] your mind is telling you one thing and your body is telling you another thing."

Meanwhile, Pierce's left elbow, which was operated on in early August and then drained back on February 7 just before he made his return to the Celtics lineup, has swollen up considerably as of late. Upon inspection, calling the swelling the size of a golfball would only be a minor exaggeration, and he says it is causing him pain even when the joint is at rest.

Thankfully, Pierce says he has a high tolerance for pain, and when he was asked if he'd need to have it drained again, Pierce said, "It drains itself."

Ray's Playing Point?

Last season, Rivers tinkered with playing Tony Allen at point guard, and this year, he's considered having Allan Ray try his hand at floor general. Ray went undrafted in large part because some NBA scouts felt that at 6'2" (um, that's probably generous) he was too small to playing shooting guard and didn't have the ballhandling abilities to play the point.

So when Ray was sent to the D-League a few weeks back, part of the plan was to give him some time at the point guard position to learn from Dennis Johnson before DJ's sudden and untimely passing.

Now that he's back with the Celtics, Ray probably won't see much action at the point this season, but it's a wrinkle Rivers may add in at practice in the final month of the season. The only problem is, there isn't much practice time left in the year. So it may not happen at all.

"If I do it, I'll give him two plays to run or three plays to run," Rivers said. "If its in the flow of the game and he's on the floor, we'll just go from there."

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