In a matter of months, Celtics center Kendrick Perkins has gone from being worried about his shoulder to shouldering more of the load offensively.
Offseason left shoulder surgery caused Perkins to miss three preseason games, but he made up for lost time by working hard on his offense during individual workouts. The usual fifth option in the Celtics' offense, Perkins has showed of late that those workouts paid off, as he has averaged 11.4 points over the last seven games.
"I've just been doing my role and they have done a good job of finding me," said Perkins, who was off yesterday with the rest of the Celtics before playing at Indiana tonight.
Despite starting, Perkins was actually ninth on the team in scoring last season, averaging 6.9 points in 24.5 minutes per contest. Plays were rarely run for him, and his offensive game seemed limited to a short jumper, an occasional hook, dunks, and putbacks.
But Perkins worked on his game and showed late improvement at a key time, scoring 18 points against Detroit in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.
An already short offseason became even shorter for the sixth-year Celtic when he underwent arthroscopic surgery July 2 to repair the injury that hampered him during the NBA Finals.
"I couldn't work on different parts of my game like I wanted to," said Perkins. "I had to bunch it all up and fit it in where I could fit it in. I couldn't really work on my body like I wanted to.
"It was just a little setback, but it wasn't that bad."
Once Perkins was cleared to take part in noncontact drills, he spent a lot of time working on his offensive game with assistant coach Clifford Ray and veteran teammate Sam Cassell.
Perkins improved his footwork, learned how to get off his hook shot quicker, and added an up-and-under move.
Perkins said he also picked up some post tips by watching Kevin Garnett work out.
"Perk has understood totally, 100 percent, his role," Garnett said. "We look for him now. He's actually working on his offensive game and trying to be more of a threat. He takes a lot of pride when people are sagging off and he doesn't like that and he's doing something about it.
"He's in the gym working on his post game, and when he has matchups, he's being patient.
"He's going out and being more of a force on the offensive end. But he still hasn't forgotten his role, which is getting Paul [Pierce] open, getting Ray [Allen] open, getting [Rajon] Rondo open."
Perkins has had double-doubles in three of his last four games, including a 12-point, 12-rebound performance against Greg Oden in Friday's 93-78 win over Portland. He is averaging a team- and career-best 2.8 offensive rebounds per game, and a career-high 8.1 rebounds overall.
Coach Doc Rivers said Perkins has improved his offense by picking better spots in the post and taking advantage when his teammates are double-teamed.
"He understands playing next to Kevin, Kevin's going to get a lot of attention," Rivers said. "He knows Paul's going to get a lot of attention. He's ducking at perfect times now, so you have to guard him under the basket. And he's finishing better."
The statistic that matters most to Perkins is wins. "The points are going to come," he said. "With this team, it's so hard [to score] because you never know who's going to have that night. Whoever has that night, we're going to get him going."
Rivers downplayed an incident in Friday's game in which Garnett scolded several teammates, notably Glen Davis, after they squandered most of a 25-point advantage in the final quarter. After the scolding, Davis sat on the bench with a towel over his head and appeared teary-eyed. Davis was not available for comment, but in a text message, Rivers described the incident as "not a big deal here at all."