Kendrick Perkins Uses Injury Frustration as Fuel for Midseason Return

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September 9, 2010

Kendrick Perkins Uses Injury Frustration as Fuel for Midseason Return After having the biggest career opportunity of his life ripped away from him in a cruel twist of fate, even the most mild-mannered guy in the world would be feeling a little miffed. But if it's Kendrick Perkins? You can bet he's taking it awfully hard.

The Celtics' center is now two months removed from the major knee surgery he underwent after June's NBA Finals, repairing the torn ACL that kept him out most of of Game 6 and all of Game 7 against the Lakers in Los Angeles. But even with two months to cope, he's still having trouble coming to grips with it all. He's 25, he's in the prime of his career, and he's been forced out of action for the foreseeable future. You can bet your bottom dollar that when he comes back, it'll give him a little extra edge.

"I don?t have a choice," Perkins said this week in an interview with Slam Magazine. "I don?t have a choice but to have a chip on my shoulder."

It's not just that Perk was held out of Game 7 of the Finals, with a chance to play in the biggest game of his career — it's also that with months more of his rehab still to go, he's in danger of losing his starting center position to either Shaquille or Jermaine O'Neal. The freak injury Perk sustained in Game 6 at the Staples Center has served to permanently alter the course of his career, that's not something he can easily put out of his mind.

"I probably won?t get over it," Perkins told Slam. "But mentally, I?m good. I?m just focusing on this season, and focusing on my rehab and getting back and getting back healthy. Other than that, I really haven?t been worrying about too much more other than just getting on the court and chasing this title."

Perkins was dealt a serious blow back in June, but rather than mope about it, he's focused on taking the high road. He wants to help this team get back to the Finals again next spring, and that means working hard toward a recovery.

"It?s going great, man," he said. "I?m going to rehab every day. It?s getting a whole lot better. I?m walking without crutches and a brace, so things are moving along. I?m not rushing anything, but things are moving at a great pace.

"It?s not as bad as everybody thinks. It?s difficult, obviously, but it?s not as bad as people think. If you are mentally strong, you can get through it."

Perk has been working toward getting better, but in the interim, Danny Ainge has been working toward moving on without him. By bringing in a strong new class of free agents to shore up the weaknesses in the Celtics' roster, Ainge has prepared the C's to be a strong team even without their old starting center.

As for Perkins, he's hoping everything works out in the end, both for the team and himself.

"We didn?t do nothing spectacular," he said. "We got Shaq, we got Delonte [West], we got J.O. [Jermaine O?Neal]. But it ain?t like we signed no young Dwight Howards or anything like that. So if anything, we just got older. But we still got a lot of talent. So we got older, but we got a lot of talent and a lot of experience, so that?s going to help us a lot. And a lot of guys with chips on their shoulder, so that?s what?s going to really help."

Perk's got that chip — but not toward his teammates or coaches. He's not mad at the Celtics — he's mad at fate for sidelining him in the Finals, and at the Lakers for taking away the title he thought was within his grasp.

When he gets back — and eventually, he will be back — Kendrick Perkins will look to channel all that extra emotion into helping the Celtics reach their opening goal. They didn't bring a banner back to Boston this summer, but they'll resume that quest in 2011 with a newfound intensity. Perk is a big reason why.

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