It came as a great surprise when around 6:30 Tuesday evening, the Celtics, on Twitter, reported that Kendrick Perkins would be playing in the Boston's game against Cleveland just an hour later. Perkins was originally targeting a February 4th return.
Sure, it was against the Cavaliers. Playing the losers of 17 (now 18) straight essentially guaranteed a win for the Celtics at the Garden on Tuesday night.
Paul Pierce had 24 first-half points and Rajon Rondo posted yet another double-double in the 17-point blowout. But none of it seemed to matter. The Celtics had their center back.
Perkins made his entrance, accompanied by a standing ovation, only three-and-a-half minutes into the game. On top of that, he ended up logging more minutes than the expected 12-15.
Perkins fit in as though he had never been out.
It only took Perkins slightly over a minute to get his first bucket on an assist from Ray Allen. It was a familiar presence in Perkins' game that provoked a sense of anticipation for change in Boston. The Celtics' rebounding stats are about to change.
Last in the league in all rebounding categories, the Celtics have demonstrated just how good they are in other areas of the game by overcoming such an issue.
With 4:17 left in the first, Perkins grabbed his first offensive board and proceeded to dish it out to Rondo for a three. What better scenario for Perkins to make his first dent in the 2010-11 season than against the size-plagued Cavaliers on Boston's home court?
Perkins went on to put up seven points, six boards and three assists in 17 minutes.
Half of Perkins' boards came on the offensive glass, and this seems like an obvious rebound of things to come. He ran the floor with as much energy as he ever has, backing up all the talk of his strenuous physical training (along with the discussion over his starting role).
Perkins' abilities in the post are just what the Celtics need to fill out a deep and physical squad. With the NBA season not yet at the All-Star break, the concern over Perkins being ready come playoff time has likely already found a backseat.
Perkins is a necessity for what could be one of this squad's final playoff runs. With Shaq hopefully coming off the bench come postseason, the Celtics interior has gone from inconsistent and questionable to extremely well rounded.
If Shaq can be healthy and with Semih Erden demonstrating an increasing skill-curve, the Celtics' rebounding woes may be gone for good.
With Delonte West due back in 1-2 weeks, the Celtics lineup will soon be filled out, with all the pieces in place. It should be a marvel to watch the star-studded cast down the stretch as they gun for the No. 1 seed in the East.