All Eyes Will Be on Celtics in February As C’s Should Finally Be Back to Full Health


Jan 23, 2011

Thirty seconds after a gut-wrenching Game 7 Finals loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, every Boston Celtics fan said it.

"Give us Kendrick Perkins, and we win that game."

Heck, head coach Doc Rivers said it, noting, "They still have not beaten our starting five."

Seven months later, and Perk has yet to return to the court in uniform. You wouldn't think, though, judging by their Eastern Conference-leading 33-10 record and a Friday-night dismantling of the Utah Jazz, but 2010-11 has been a struggle for the Celtics.

Let's recount the long list of injuries, shall we.

Currently out:

Jermaine O'Neal (knee)
Shaquille O'Neal
Kendrick Perkins
Delonte West

Has missed time:

Kevin Garnett (10 games; calf)
Shaquille O'Neal
(10 games; leg)
Rajon Rondo
(12 games; ankle)
Semih Erden
(13 games; shoulder and coach's decisions)

What are the impacts of those injuries? Boston lost three of 10 games with KG sitting, and lost another four in which Rondo sat out — with only one of those games overlapping.

In other words, seven of Boston's 10 losses came without at least one of their most valuable players. I'm not saying they're unbeatable with a full roster. I'm saying they're as close to unbeatable as it gets.

And February should be the first time we'll see all the ducks in a row in mid-season form.

Jermaine O'Neal, who announced Wednesday he will forego surgery on his balky left knee, is expected back mid-to-late-February.

West had the cast on his broken right wrist removed earlier this month and is already back on the floor for dribbling and conditioning drills. He's due to begin aggressive strengthening rehab on the wrist next week and should be back in the lineup after the All-Star break.

Who is the biggest cog, perhaps? Perkins, who's recovering from that ACL injury suffered in Game 6 against L.A., is already participating in full-contact practices with his teammates and has said he wants to be back for a Feb. 4 showdown with the Dallas Mavericks in Beantown (imagine the reception he's going to receive when he hits the TD Garden floor for the first time in seven months).

By my count (barring any other serious injuries to key Boston players), the C's are eyeing Feb. 22 in Golden State to be a full roster and depth chart.

And there are big games on the docket in the month of February. Boston takes on Dallas, the Orlando Magic, the Lakers, Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets in a span of 20 days.

With at least Perk back in the lineup for the majority of those (and O'Neal and West ideally back for the last few), it will be the Celtics' first chance to see what this team can really do after its offseason additions.

And given that they've already, with a short hand, mounted a 33-10 start to the 2010-11 campaign, things are already looking up.

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