Boston Celtics' Final Puzzle Piece: The Impending Return of Kendrick Perkins

Zachary StanleyCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2011

BOSTON - JUNE 10:  Kendrick Perkins #43 of the Boston Celltics looks on against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game Four of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 10, 2010 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The countdown is on.

As the Celtics lose the occasional game and the lowly Rockets somehow seemingly fail to miss a fourth-quarter shot, I have been patiently waiting for the announcements to come.

On Jan. 7th, Perkins was supposedly three weeks away. Then, on Jan. 11th, Perkins was cleared for full contact practice starting this week. As the NBA world stays occupied, wondering what date Kevin Garnett will return, Perkins' return has flown under the radar.

But not in Boston.

Reunited, and it feels so gooooood. Perkins will make a sometimes undersized Celtics lineup suddenly feel big, threatening and as physical as ever. Rebounding (greatest issue of late) will rise on both ends if Perkins can prove to be back to form.

When Perkins returns, it will have been eight months. Eight months since a torn ACL, MCL and PCL in Game 6. Eight months since the value of the Celtics center became more apparent than ever. Eight months since the injury that led to the loss that has the Celtics as thirsty as ever. The real winners always want, need, another taste.

Eight months is a long time, and it's easy to forget exactly what Perkins means to the Celtics championship hopes. Perkins averaged 10.1, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks. The stats, like most numbers in basketball, paint only a small picture of what the true value of the player is.

Perkins is bred for the playoffs. A physical force on the defensive end and a menacing cleanup man on offense. Passionate, intense and virtually immovable. With this team, could the Celtics win without him? Sure. But a healthy Perkins should have Celtics fans confident.

The intensity (along with an unparalleled look of anger) helps him get the hate label from opposing fans, but it fuels his teammates. Perkins will need to turn his post-foul rage down a notch (you know you're a loose cannon when KG is calming YOU down).

At least he has a full season of technicals available to him.

It is hard to get too upset at Perk. His passionate pursuit, along with Rajon Rondo's, fill out the starting five's refuse-to-lose mentality. There is no weakness in the chain. The mentality is contagious, and whether Perkins had it or learned it from the big three, it is there. It echoes throughout the team.

Perkins has utilized his championship drive to motivate him through a long rehab process. He has also used the time to expand on his jump shot. Perkins has never seemed to have much of a natural touch, so this news may be all for not, but I'll choose to dream.

The Celtics goal is to have Perkins ready come playoff time, and that goes for all the Celtics starters. Try to envision a bench with Nate Robinson, Delonte West, Glen Davis, Shaquille O'Neal and Marquis Daniels.

Sounds like a bench that could beat the starters for the Cleveland Cavaliers, doesn't it? I know, I should lay off the poor people of Cleveland. My distaste for the “King” is with you!

The skepticism will rain down upon Perkins' return as analysts attempt to figure out the potential problems that could arise between Shaq and Perk. Shaq has already conveyed his intention to service the Celtics as Rivers deems necessary.

While the doubters have their say, the Celtics always seem to make it work, with their concentration never wavering from the ultimate prize.

Perkins is the final piece of the puzzle that brings this Boston team together. With West also “a few weeks away,” the Celtics could potentially have their entire squad playing together in preparation for the playoffs.

Of course, I'll have to rewrite this article if Steven A. Smith's ridiculous report about Rasheed Wallace comes true (hey, he was right about LeBron—or was it Chris Broussard?).