Way back in 2004, not many Celtics fans felt that Kendrick Perkins would be the starting center on a championship team. Perk has been my favorite player from the time we drafted him and I have been telling people since then that Perk would be one of the top centers in the league one day. I took a lot of flack for those beliefs back then. The most common comment I got when i would express my belief that Perk was good enough to start on a championship team was that he would be a backup on a good team but just would never be anything more.
Back then, it was the crack staff at PerkisaBeast and myself and a few others who truly believed that Perk would be something special. Here are a few quotes from my early writings on this blog.
It is no secret that the center position is one of the hardest to fill with a dominant player. It is also one of the most crucial spots to fill. Where do the Celtics stand as far as their big men? Do we have a center who has the ability to dominate in the middle? I believe we do. In my opinion, Perk is the key to our making the playoffs and to the Celtics becoming a contender once again.
Perk has made himself into one of the toughest players on the Celtics and in the league. His work ethic is second to none and each year he improves his game in some areas. Center is one of the toughest positions to fill and the Celtics have filled this position with a very tough rebounder and shot blocker. He gives the Celtics something they haven't had in many years, and that is an enforcer. With more playing time and some tutelage from Clifford Ray, I believe that Perk can establish himself as one of the premier centers in the league.
Who can forget the game last season when Pierce was having an off game and seemed to be slacking off and Perk got in his face and told him to pick it up and play? This kid is not only going to be a dominant center but will also be a leader on this team. The fact that Pierce did pick it up during that game shows that even the veterans are willing to listen to this hard working kid because he has put in the effort and his work ethic has given him credibility with his teammates.
I see some parallels between Perk and Cowens. First, there is size. Perk is 6'10" and Cowens was 6'9", somewhat undersized for a center. Both make up for any lack of size with hustle and hard work. No one has a better work ethic than Perk and Cowens was a very hard worker as well.
I have always felt that Perk's work ethic set him apart. Even when he wasn't playing, his work ethic showed in the way he remade his body from his first season to his second. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. These pictures were taken over two years apart: one from a December 13, 2003 game in his first season, and the second from November 25, 2005. He is striking almost identical poses in the photographs with his hands on his hips and his elbows flared as he prepares to take a free throw. These pictures show the big difference in Perk as he worked very hard to remake his body. And keep in mind that he had already started working out and had come a ways already before the first picture was taken.
Fast forward to last season and Perk proved to most of his doubters that he was indeed capable of being the starting center on a championship team. His value to the team was evident in game 5 of the finals when he sat out with the shoulder injury. In games 1,2,3,4 and 6 of the Finals, the Lakers big men couldn't do anything in the paint and were all but invisible. But, in game 5 without Perk to defend the paint, both Odom and Gasol had their best games of the series.
But, still some people were quick to say that KG was the factor that made the difference in Perk's play and without the Big Ticket, Perk would not be able to hold his own. Now, on to this season. After KG went down, Perk had to be the man in the middle for the Celtics and he proved more than capable of doing so, even without KG. In the playoffs, Perk was easily the most consistent player for the Celtics and he won over most of the remaining Celtics fans who still doubted him before.
Perk proved as he battled Dwight Howard to a virtual standoff that he is one of the top defensive centers in the league. He has also developed a decent offensive game and will continue to improve in both areas in the years to come. Perk is still just 24 years old and has improved season by season. And I have no doubt that he will come back even better next season.
To all those who told me way back in Perk's early years that I was crazy and that Perk would never be more than a back up center on a good team, I take pride in saying "I told you so."
I agree FLCeltsFan! In fact ironically enough in his rookie season Perk was by one measure second in the entire NBA only to.... Kevin Garnett! And that measure was: versatility per minute. Amazing that they ended up on the same team.