Kendrick Perkins isn’t angry right now. The Boston Celtics 25-year-old starting center, one of the NBA’s leaders in technical fouls and known for his signature scowl as much as he is for his game (10.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg), is even in a good mood considering he’s facing a long rehab following surgery to repair a torn ACL.
The last time we saw Perk, he was watching the Celtics lose Game Seven of the NBA Finals from the bench, wearing street clothes after sustaining the knee injury in Game Six. Splitting the offseason between Boston and his native Beaumont, Texas, Perkins talked recently about his expected return time, the way he treats refs, and the new powerhouse squad in Miami.
*** *** ***
Dime: How’s the knee?
Kendrick Perkins: Oh man, it’s been going great. Surgery went extremely well, so I’m just rehabbing, trying to take it day by day, one day at a time and go from there. Right now I’m doing better than I expected. The doctors said I’m ahead of schedule, so I should be back my mid-February.
Dime: When you first got hurt, did you know it was serious?
KP: When it happened, I knew it was serious because I heard something pop. I couldn’t get up on my own. I was hoping it was something else, but unfortunately it was a torn ACL. I had to watch Game Seven from the sideline. Game Six and Game Seven, those were the worst moments of my life.
Dime: You had to miss most of Game Five in the Orlando series after getting ejected. Is not being able to play in that situation the same feeling as not playing because you’re hurt?
KP: It’s only different because, when you get ejected, you know you can play the next game. I knew I couldn’t play the next game being hurt, and you know, it was Game Seven. Against Orlando we had another day to breathe. In the Finals, there wasn’t no tomorrow. This was for all the marbles and I couldn’t be a part of it.
Dime: What’s your game plan for rehabbing this summer?
KP: I’m spending most of the time here in Boston so I can take care of that situation. Sometimes I’ll go back to Beaumont (Texas), but mostly I wanna be in Boston. I’ve never hurt anything in my knee like this since I’ve been playing. The rehab, it’s a beast. It’s hard. I’m almost walking on my own without a brace, so it’s cool.
Dime: What else do you have going on this summer?
KP: I have my camp in Beaumont next weekend. I got a lot of NBA people coming through: Sam Cassell, Rondo, Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, Lester Hudson, Stephen Jackson … they’re all coming down to talk to the kids and show them the ropes about playing ball. I’m pretty excited to be doing something for my community. It’s pretty cool. And all the money is going to women and children’s shelters.
Dime: You’re one of the high school-to-NBA success stories that people often forget to mention. What’s your view on the NBA age limit and of high schoolers going pro?
KP: I feel like personally, if you’re ready to come out as an 18-year-old in high school, you could come out. You can get a job at 18. Some guys that came out haven’t been successful, but it goes up and down. I think overall the ratio is high for guys staying in the League after coming out of high school. I don’t see a problem with it. Some guys just don’t wanna go to college, so now they’ll go overseas, then come back to the NBA. It’s not about how you get to the NBA, it’s if you get to the NBA.
Dime: What’s the hardest part of making that adjustment to being a pro that young?
KP: The biggest part is leaving the life alone and concentrating on basketball. Once you can grow apart from the NBA lifestyle outside the court and just focus on hooping, you’ll be alright. That was the biggest adjustment for me.
Dime: Rajon Rondo was in the news the other day saying you guys aren’t worried about Miami even though they have LeBron and Chris Bosh now. What’s your take?
KP: I mean, they have a pretty good team on paper with LeBron, Bosh and D-Wade. But at the end of the day, anything can happen in the playoffs. We proved that this year; we were 17-17 down the stretch and guys counted us out, but we already knew no team wanted to see us in a seven-game series. We felt that way, we believed in ourselves and the coaches believed in us.
It’s gonna be a hard challenge for (Miami). It’s easy to get all those guys on one team, but to vibe in the same system is another thing. Who’s gonna make the extra pass? Who’s gonna make the defensive plays? This is a grown-man’s league, and other teams are getting better, too. So you know that night in and night out, guys are gonna attack them.
Dime: You have to go into games every night facing Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Tim Duncan — the best big men in the League. How do you prepare yourself mentally for that?
KP: You just gotta be focused. You want to be prepared and know your matchup, but at the same time you can’t really go into a game worrying about who you’ve gotta play. I have to feel like I’m the best player at my position whenever I go out on the court. The NBA is all about confidence. If you have a lot of confidence from within, you can succeed.
Dime: You might have the coldest mean-mug in the League. Do you listen to music or anything to get yourself psyched up like that?
KP: (Laughs) Man, but the time I wake up from my nap — actually, from the time we have shootaround — I’m just focused on the game. I have my game face on from the time I walk into the gym. I’m always jamming my music: I listen to UGK, that helps a lot.
Dime: Do you ever tell yourself that you need to calm down and not go off on the refs so much?
KP: That’s just me. That’s my tenacity, what I bring to the team. Yeah, I can lay off the refs a little bit, but that’s been me all my life. I can’t change it.
Dime: How is the locker room atmosphere with the Celtics?
KP: Oh man, it’s great. I always say we need our own reality show, but you’ve have to bleep out and edit too much stuff. It’s funny. Every day I look forward to going to work with the guys on our team.
Dime: Tony Allen said there’s always a fight over the music in the weight room.
KP: All the time. It’s always a big misunderstanding. Tony would wanna play Gucci Mane, Nate always has a variety, and KG wants to play the same song 40 times in a row. But KG ends up ruling at the end, because he’s got the most years in the League.
Dime: What are you into off the court?
KP: I’m from Texas, so you know I enjoy stuff like fishing, cookouts with the family, stuff like that. I’m just a chill, laid-back dude. I like to play cards every now and then, dominoes. Just whatever.
Dime: Who’s the best card player on the Celtics?
KP: I’m one of ’em. Ray Allen is actually a good one. Paul (Pierce) is an OK card player. KG, he’s OK; he’s average. Rondo is a pretty good card player, too. We play cards all the time. Poker some days, maybe spades, it all depends.
Dime: So how does the team look for next season?
KP: We’re gonna come back ready. KG is coming back in the best shape he’s ever been in. We got Jermaine O’Neal. Paul is coming back as a premier player in the League. Ray is gonna be Ray all the time. Rondo is gonna keep it up, keep it going.
Dime: Any predictions?
KP: Nah, I don’t wanna do that.
KP: Actually, yeah, I will make a prediction. We’re gonna win.
Dime: The whole thing?
KP: We’re gonna win.