The Kids Are Alright
Perkins-Jefferson Tag Team Finishes Off T-Wolves
Over the past few weeks, Doc Rivers has answered the same question 100 times if he's answered it once: When are the kids going to get a chance to play big minutes?
"January 18, 2006" is apparently the new answer. But that begs the next question: Was it a one-night stand for Kendrick Perkins and Al Jefferson? Rivers said that just like fans, he expects them to produce every night. But the catch is that in both cases, those expectations aren't reasonable.
"My expectations are for them to play that way too, but it is unreasonable. But I expect that. I expect effort and focus, and then execution with those guys third," said Rivers.
Of course, execution down the stretch of close ball games has haunted the Celtics, but Rivers rolled the dice and stayed with the kids to finish out the game, and things worked out just fine. Rivers sited Minnesota's big front line as the reason for initially going to the young tandem, but he stayed with them because of their effectiveness on both ends of the floor. While Perkins was busy wrestling with Kevin Garnett on the block on one end, Al Jefferson was hitting jumpers from the top of the key.
Perhaps what impressed Rivers more than the tangible items that showed up in the box score was the dialogue he heard between his young players.
"I thought our young guys were extremely verbal during the game. Perk was getting on guys, Delonte was yelling at guys about defense and as crazy as it sounds, it's the first time you've heard their voices," said Rivers. "So I thought that was a significant theme with our team. We just challenge them as coaches, and they started doing it tonight."
Paul Pierce was taken with the youngsters' composure down the stretch of a close ballgame.
"They definitely are the future of this franchise," said Pierce, who talked about how proud he was of his younger teammates. "It was good to see them out there in extended minutes I really think they compliment each other pretty well."
Rivers has said in the past that he wasn't comfortable with both Perkins and Jefferson on the floor together at the same time, but he let the kids do their thing against the Timberwolves Wednesday night, and it turned out pretty well. The Celtics beat Minnesota 103-96. Perkins and Jefferson each finished in double figures. And our long lost pal Gino even made an appearance on the Jumbotron with 40 seconds to play. Good times all around.
"It was a lot of fun because at one point in time Doc wasn't comfortable with us out there together. Now I hope he can get the confidence for us to go out there and play together," said Jefferson. "He always say we are the future for the bigs, so I'm saying, let's go on right now and make our mistakes and learn from it and just become good players together."
Big Al won't get any argument from Perk.
"Why not? They weren't stopping us on the block all night," said Perkins, who at times in the game looked like he had up-and-under post moves on loan from Kevin McHale. "He just has to trust us. Some nights it might be like this, some nights it won't. Some nights Al might be out there with Raef (LaFrentz) or Mark (Blount), or some nights I might be out there with Raef or Mark. You never know how things may turn out, but you've just got to stay ready."
Collision Doesn't Send West South
Regarding his first half collision that briefly removed him from the game, West said he got "somehow bumped out of the air" during a lay-up attempt and that his head crashed into a photographer's camera on the baseline underneath the hoop. He joked to reporters that he took the "standing eight count" after being knocked to the floor on one of his trademark leaning lefty layups.
When West returned in the third quarter, he didn't think twice about going back to the basket hard and surprised everyone with a loud baseline dunk that ignited the rally.
"Plays like that get the crowd up and guys ready to play," said West, who finished with 14 points on 5/10 shooting (50%). With regard to West's recent shooting percentage (52.6% for the year and 58% since December 1 entering Wednesday's game), we asked walking basketball encyclopedia Bob Ryan who the last point guard he remembered who shot the ball at such a high percentage during a season.
His response? "John Stockton." As far as comparisons go, that's pretty complimentary. While West has quite a way to go before he's breathing the same rarified air as Stockton, who shot 51.5% from the field over his career, it's an interesting comparison nonetheless.
Odds and Sods
Rumors have been flying the last two days in the Boston papers about potential trade scenarios, and Mark Blount's name has been the one most often mentioned. Rivers told the media before Wednesday's game that he did talk to Blount about the rumors to make sure it wasn't affecting him, but didn't address the team in general...Jefferson said that taking charges was one of the biggest areas he's improved in his defense this season. "If I took a charge at all last year, it was an accident," he quipped...Kevin McHale apparently didn't make the trip to Boston this time around...The Celtics committed just four turnovers; Pierce accounted for three of them...FSN New England will broadcast three road games in HDTV this season: February 6 @ Miami Heat, February 21 @ Utah Jazz and February 26 @ Los Angeles Lakers...