Starting Five Reunited in Big Day in Waltham

By Marc D'Amico
January 16, 2011

WALTHAM, Mass. – Doc Rivers delivered his daily injury report at about 1:30 p.m. this afternoon in Waltham, Mass. With it came some bad news, but the good was undeniable.

For the first time this season, the Boston Celtics went through an entire practice with their regular starting unit intact. That means Kevin Garnett resumed full practice for the first time since straining a muscle in his lower right leg against the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 29, 2010. It also means that Kendrick Perkins, who is on the comeback trail from offseason knee surgery, participated in a full practice for the first time this season.

Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins

For the first time all season, the Celtics were able to practice with the twin anchors of their defense, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins, on the floor at the same time, as seen here during training camp in Newport during the fall of 2009.Darren McCollester/Getty/NBAE

With those two reuniting in the frontcourt, Boston was able to rekindle the type of continuity that has sent the team to the NBA Finals two out of the last three seasons. Although it was just the first day the group has played together since Game 7 of the Finals on June 17, 2010, Rivers couldn't help himself from being excited about what he saw.

"You can just see it, honestly, with our first unit, because today was the first time this year that we've actually had our real first unit on the floor," Rivers said. "And today, offensively, and defensively, it was another level because they could run anything they wanted because everybody knew where everybody was at."

The Celtics have taken baby steps to get to this day, as Garnett has taken his time coming back from his injury and Perkins has been cautious with his knee. Now about two and a half weeks post-injury, it sounds as if KG will be back in the lineup for tomorrow's nationally televised showdown with the Orlando Magic.

"I think Kevin will go tomorrow, but again, he went through practice to see if he can go tomorrow, meaning we'll know that by tomorrow," said Rivers, who went on to clear that statement up. "If he feels good, he'll go. If he doesn't -- if there's anything -- he will not go."

It sounds as if Garnett is likely to play, but Perkins still has to wait before returning to game action. Rivers did, however, joke that Perk looked so good in today's practice that he could be an option for tomorrow's game.

"Perk went through the whole practice today. Hell, he looked the best," Rivers said. "I could make a case for playing him tomorrow, if anybody. He will not play, obviously, but Perk -- first day for Perk, live... phenomenal. He was great."

The plan is for Perkins to continue with full-scale practice for another few weeks before returning to the lineup. He notified the media today that he has finally set a target date for his return to game action.

"I did pick a day I'm trying to come back," said Perkins. "I'm trying to come back on the Dallas game, February [4]. So I'm trying to come back on the [4th].

"I probably could come back before that, but I think we're going to be on the road, so I kind of want to make my first game at home."

As that day rapidly approaches, he'll need to take it down a notch in practice, as he's one of the reasons why Rivers joked about needing him in the lineup tomorrow night. Perk may have had a little extra juice running through his body when he set a screen on Marquis Daniels during the early stages of practice. That pick wound up altering the entire practice, because Daniels was forced to sit out the remainder of the session.

"We had to shorten practice, Marquis got hurt in practice, so we ended up with only 10 guys," Rivers said to the media as he opened up his post-practice chat. "And Shaq didn't practice because he got hurt. So we may be down to the same number again, maybe different guys."

The good news is that neither Daniels nor Shaq's injuries seem to be long-term. Daniels, whose back was injured on the play, was smiling after practice and said he'll be good to go tomorrow. The injury is light enough that Perk was able to joke about the play when he spoke to the media. O'Neal's injury, which happened when he "fell before practice," according to Rivers, also didn't sound as if it was serious.

So while Boston was hit with two minor setbacks in Daniels and O'Neal's minor nicks, the overall vibe of Sunday's practice was of positive nature. The Celtics got the quarterback of their defense back in the lineup, and got a healthy reminder of what the team's real starting five can look like in full-speed action. That's news Rivers had to have loved to have spoken during the most positive injury report he has delivered in recent memory.