This season, I have heard a lot of grumbling about Perk. I have been saying all along that Perk is going to turn the corner and surprise a lot of people. His recent play is opening up some eyes as he has shut down a few All Stars and has either learned to play though the pain better or the plantar fasciitis is getting better.
Perk came into the league directly from high school and his first season he played all of 30 minutes all season. But he used that time to work hard and mold his body into NBA shape. The difference in him from the first season to the second is unreal.
These pictures show the big difference in Perk as he worked very hard to remake his body from High School shape to NBA ready. And keep in mind that he had already started working out and had come a ways already before the first picture was taken.
"I remember in my first training camp, I almost died," said Perkins, laughing. "It's a matter of going into the off-season and doing the work. Not only do you want to lose weight, but you also got to make sure that you keep your strength. So you've got to lift at the same time. You've really got to step your game up because this ain't high school no more, so you've got to elevate your game."
"I just try to keep improving and not let them down, because the Celtics drafted me. I feel like I owe them something," said Perkins.
Perkins continued to work on his body and his conditioning, and over the course of his first three years he lost 53 pounds of body fat and transformed his bulky frame into a constantly evolving NBA body.
"Defensively, Perk comes out with a purpose every night," said Doc Rivers, speaking rather loudly within an earshot of his team after practice, perhaps sending a not-so-subtle message. "I think he's the only guy who gives us an identity, and he's starting to learn how to play physical without fouling."
Before this season, Perkins said that he watches himself on tape after every game, looking for ways he can improve. He checks to make sure he saw cutters, set good screens and was in proper position on set plays. He sees improvement in his overall game on a daily basis, and he points to his post moves, an improved jump hook and the way he runs the floor as the biggest strides in his development.
Last season, Perk finally started to get playing time and we saw the chemistry between Perk and Al developing when they both went down with injuries. Then, in the off season, Perk once again injured his shoulder and had surgery. He wasn't able to take advantage of working with Clifford Ray and couldn't work out until just before the season, although there were reports that he tried to sneak onto the court a few times before he was cleared to work. He was just starting to get into shape when the plantar fasciitis struck and he has tried to play through the pain all season. Because of all this, many have felt that he was a bust. But then again, I read many of the same things about Big Al last season.
I loved the story yesterday in the Globe that pointed out that Perk doesn't care about individual statistics but just wants to be a defensive stopper and help his teammates play better.
"I want to be a defensive presence and a defensive stopper. I think you need that to win because every winning team has one. I know the game and certain rotations. I can tell people where to go on defense. I can holler when they're not in the right spots or fuss at them. I know how to push people out to rotate to certain men. I pretty much can direct people in defensive rotations. It's just one of my strong points."
Perk is not only becoming a defensive presence, but he is also becoming a leader. Last season, Pierce was lagging and not playing hard in a game and Perk called him out for it in a time out. This team very much needs a player like Perk who will be a leader on the floor willing to do the dirty work and also direct the defense.
Perk is a hard worker and I am sure that as soon as the season is over he will be on the court working hard to be better for next season. His plan for last season was to work on his offense and develop a shot around the basket but with the injury, he never got a chance to. I expect that to happen this season. Just as Al broke out this season once he was finally healthy, I expect perk to do the same next season. We are getting a taste of it now. He is still playing in pain and not 100% but he is playing well enough to make us excited about what is to come next season. And considering the price of big men these days, Perk is a real bargain!