Kendrick Perkins Faces Battle for Starting Role When He Returns from Injury


While one Boston sports personality named Kendrick Perkins is busy this month forging himself a new career, another has started down the long road toward rebuilding his.

The elder Kendrick Perkins, the 25-year-old starting center for the Celtics, is on the path toward recovery from a devastating knee injury that kept him out of Game 7 of the NBA Finals and threatened the future of his career. Perk underwent surgery on July 7 to repair his torn ACL, and he's now easing his way into the rehab process and targeting a mid-winter return to the Celtics.

He's also earning the respect of his Celtic teammates.

"He's handling it like a professional," said Rajon Rondo, who addressed the media after a scrimmage with USA Basketball. "He's trying to take care of his body. He's getting a lot of treatment on his knee. He's actually walking. He's in good spirits."

Perkins is headed back to the Celtics, sooner or later. He fought hard all season and battled through countless minor but nagging injuries — at this point, he could really use the months of rest ahead. They'll add years to his career.

Perk's only 25, but he's been in the league seven years, started for five and made deep playoff runs for three. He could use a breather to pace himself.

Only problem is that that's not how Perk's wired. Basketball is war to him, and he never wants to miss a battle. He can rest when he's retired. Perk never wants to miss a game, never wants to sit through a practice. He wants to be out there.

"He's a warrior," Rondo said. "He wants to play and is ready to get back out there. He wants to play, but obviously, but we don't want to rush anything back."

Of course, thanks to the events of this offseason, the Celtics don't have to. They've enlisted the help of a pair of O'Neals — Shaquille and Jermaine — to bolster their depth of big men for the months ahead, and two All-Star bigs should be more than enough to keep them afloat.

When it comes time for the C's to seriously consider Perk's return date, they can err on the side of caution. They've got a pair of veterans serving as insurance policies.

The real question is what Perk's role will be upon his return, and how that will shake things up for the O'Neals. Perk is the youngest, strongest and probably the best of the Celtics' three centers, and he's got seniority in Doc Rivers' book. But that doesn't guarantee anything.

Danny Ainge told the Boston Globe last week that "Perkins would have to earn his starting spot back once he returned," which means he thinks much more highly of the O'Neals (well, at least one of them) than anyone imagined. For Perkins, that can't be easy news to stomach — he's been the starter in the Hub for half a decade now, since before he was old enough to drink. He's already earned his job security, and now it could be snatched away from him.

My gut says not to actually believe it. Eventually, you'd think, the Celtics should come to their senses and realize Perk's role as the team's leading rebounder, post defender and rim protector. That's what Doc needs from his center every night, and it's what he gets from a healthy Perk.

Perkins is a warrior, and he's always been determined to fight for what he wants. Whether it's a championship or a starting job, he'll stop at nothing to get it.

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