|Kendrick Perkins dunked in practice yesterday “just to make sure I still could.’’ (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
Practice turns into a big deal
Perkins returns in a limited role
WALTHAM — While some Celtics did not engage in full contact, the fact that they had a full complement of front-court players for yesterday’s practice was noteworthy. It was the first time this season the team had all its bigs on the court.
There was Shaquille O’Neal, sore right calf and all, fresh from his stint as guest conductor of the Boston Pops Monday night. There was Semih Erden, who has been nursing a sore groin. And, of course, there were the stalwarts: Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett, each of whom has played in all 26 games this season.
But what was most noticeable was the fact Kendrick Perkins and Jermaine O’Neal also took part in the session.
Although he was limited to skeleton offensive drills, it was Perkins’s first organized work with the team since he injured his right knee in Game 6 of last season’s Finals in Los Angeles.
O’Neal, meanwhile, drew one step closer to getting back from a sore left knee that left him sidelined for the last 19 games. He hinted that he might play tonight against the 76ers at TD Garden.
“It’s a challenge,’’ O’Neal said of his protracted absence — since the second half of an 89-87 loss at Dallas Nov. 8. “We don’t have a ton of practices, so you can’t wait until you get five good practices. You got to play when you feel like it’s doable and I feel like I’m close. I may play [tonight].
“I’m just going to talk to the medical staff and see how they feel and how they’re going to gauge it, but I feel like we’ve done enough work to protect the knee. Conditioning-wise, I’m not going to be in tip-top shape, but it happens when you don’t have enough practices. I will [be] when I do have enough practices.’’
A welcome sight for the lucky sponsors who attended the open practice was Perkins throwing down a dunk off a pick-and-roll move.
“Today he was the most active [that he’s been],’’ coach Doc Rivers said of Perkins. “He even did the warm-ups, which he’s never done before.’’
It was all part of a painstaking recovery.
“I just ran the dummy offense with the guys and got up and down and it felt pretty good,’’ Perkins said. “Just went over the plays and got a little rhythm. It was good to be out there.’’
Perkins had no trepidation about pushing himself.
“You’re kind of scared to be on it the first couple of times you’re at this, but it felt all right,’’ he said. “My timing felt like it was a little off, but I felt like I did pretty well my first time back.’’
When he dunked, though, Perkins said he thought to himself, “I might be all right, after all. I just dunked to make sure that I still [could].
“I haven’t had any setbacks, but really I’m just trying to keep moving forward and I’m actually feeling pretty good. I’m actually surprised about how good I did out there, as far as going through different plays. I’m just trying not to have any setbacks.’’
Perkins, who has been fitted for a brace, said he’ll continue noncontact work for the next 2-3 weeks before being cleared for full contact.
“The next time I’ll have an MRI again is right after the first of January,’’ Perkins said. “So each time I have an MRI, I know it’s a good thing because I know they’re going to start to let me do more things.
“I’ll just do the dummy offense, get my rhythm, running up and down, setting picks, and show I can take another step forward. I’m just happy to be able to do this right now.’’
Pierce honored Paul Pierce was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 21.7 points, 8.7 assists, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.3 steals. Pierce no doubt sealed the award with his triple-double in Sunday’s 99-88 triumph over the Pacers with 18 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds as the Celtics extended their winning streak to 13 games . . . After tonight’s game, the Celtics will play the Magic in Orlando on Christmas Day in a nationally televised game. For Rivers, it means a trip home, which softens the disappointment of having to work on the holiday. “People look at it differently,’’ he said. “Obviously, when you play on Christmas Day, some guys are upset over it because they can’t spend time with their family. But I look at it as a privilege, because to play on Christmas Day means you’re one of the good teams, one of the featured teams.’’ The players’ families have the option to be with the team in Orlando . . . Rivers sided with UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, who felt not enough attention was being paid to his team’s quest for an NCAA-record 89 consecutive victories, which would trump the 88-game streak of the UCLA men’s team. “I don’t care what people say, when you win that many in a row, it’s extraordinary,’’ Rivers said. “Penn State women’s volleyball just did the same thing and they got a mention late about breaking the record, and they won four national titles in a row. People should know that. Geno’s absolutely right. What he’s doing is extraordinary, and when you look at it, you don’t see an end in sight, and that’s even more amazing.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.