Along with the point guard position, the Celtics seem to be weak at the center position. Right now, we have Perk as our starting center and have Scott Pollard as the back up. Beyond that, just as we have at point guard, there are players who can play the position but who aren't true centers.
My thoughts on Perk are well known. I love Perk and feel that he will have a breakout season this year. He has been working too hard not to. Reports are that he took off 2 days after the season and then went right back to training. He has been in Boston all summer working on his game and his conditioning. He has lost 20 lbs which should take some of the pressure off of his foot and thus prevent a recurrence of the plantar fasciitis. He has been working very hard with both Clifford Ray and Tom Thibodeau, both of whom are known for developing big men. He is working on finishing quick around the basket and a jumper from around 15 feet and in. He is also working on his footwork and overall game and conditioning. I am not concerned about the starting position as I feel that Perk will do a good job.
Backing him up is Scot Pollard and this is where the concerns begin. Pollard is 6'11" and is known as much for his crazy hairstyles as he is for his rebounding and defense. He played one season for Detroit, 5 seasons with Sacramento, 3 seasons with Indiana and one with Cleveland. Hoopshype has this to say about him:
Plays with heart... will fight for every ball... long arms... outstanding rebound skills... loves to grab the offensive rebound... will put some points on the board... runs the floor well.
He will be a great back up center if only he can stay on the floor. But that is a big concern. In 2004-05, he played in only 49 games and the injury log reads like this:
Mar 22, 2005: Missed 1 game (sprained right ankle). Mar 20, 2005: Sprained right ankle, day-to-day. Feb 11, 2005: Missed 1 game (back injury). Feb 9, 2005: Back injury, day-to-day. Jan 21, 2005: Missed 1 game (back injury). Jan 19, 2005: Back injury, day-to-day. Jan 14, 2005: Missed 20 games (back injury). Nov 28, 2004: Back injury, day-to-day. Nov 23, 2004: Missed 6 games (back injury). Nov 10, 2004: Back injury, day-to-day. Nov 9, 2004: Missed 1 game (back injury). Nov 6, 2004: Back injury, day-to-day.
Then, in the '05-'06 season, he played in only 45 games and the injury log once again is fairly long:
Apr 10, 2006: Missed 1 game (plantar fasciaitis). Apr 9, 2006: Plantar fasciaitis, day-to-day. Apr 7, 2006: Missed 2 games (sore left foot). Apr 4, 2006: Sore left foot, day-to-day. Mar 21, 2006: Missed 3 games (foot injury). Mar 17, 2006: Foot injury, day-to-day. Jan 27, 2006: Missed 10 games (back injury). Jan 13, 2006: Back injury, day-to-day. Jan 8, 2006: Missed 1 game (flu). Jan 5, 2006: Flu, day-to-day. Dec 4, 2005: Missed 5 games (stomach virus). Nov 25, 2005: Stomach virus, inactive list. Nov 9, 2005: Missed 3 games (calf injury). Nov 1, 2005: Calf injury, inactive list.
Last season, he played for the ECF champs, the Cleveland Cavaliers and played in only 24 games. Once again, he missed a lot of games due to back spasms. His history of back injuries is troubling and we have to ask how many games will he be available for this season.
Beyond Perk and Pollard, there are no other centers listed. KG can slide over and play the 5, although, that really isn't the ideal situation. KG fits much better as a PF than he does as a center. A much better solution would be to play Leon Powe at the center position. He played the 5 very well in summer league and held his own against Greg Oden at that position. He is listed at 6'8" but with his long arms, he plays much bigger and can match up well with most centers. He is very strong and plays very good defense in the paint. I believe that he can play center and do a very good job of it. As with Perk, Powe works very, very hard and we saw a huge leap in ability from last season to summer league and he will be even better when the season comes around. Powe could fill in at center very well with his long arms, strength, and excellent rebounding and defense around the basket. He is learning from another undersized center with long arms in Clifford Ray and that may be why we saw such a big improvement in his Summer League play.
Finally, Kandi is a free agent and since he is our own player, we could re-sign him for the veteran minimum if Manuel is cut after training camp. He is an under achiever, but could give us 10 minutes per game in a back up role if needed and give us insurance in case Pollard once again has back problems. Looking at the free agent centers, he is probably as good as any of them out there. When he was healthy last year, he did a decent job as a back up center. It is entirely possible that Danny will go with just Perk and Pollard at center and fill in with KG and Powe. Training camp will be a deciding factor in whether to look for another big or not. Danny may see the potential in Powe to play center and is counting on that. I can't believe that Danny is going to depend on a player who has only averaged 40 games a season over the last 5 seasons as our only back up center, so he must have something else up his sleeve. [Discuss this topic on the Celtics Green Forums!]