Kendrick Perkins, Scot Pollard, and Esteban Batista.
Of all the teams predicted to make the Eastern Conference playoffs this year, the Celtics are the weakest of the bunch at the 5 position. Whether it’s Big Ben, Big Z, the Diesel, Dwight Howard, Washington’s Fightin’ 5’s – heck – the Celtics may be the worst in the pivot of ANY team in the Eastern Conference.
A lot of you Kool-Aid drinkers out there contend that the Celtics don’t need much from the center position – that having Kevin Garnett in the frontcourt is enough, period. Heck, KG can even play center if he wants. “Big Baby” Davis can come off the bench there, all 6’8” of him. “This is a different NBA,” you say. “Anybody can play the 5 and your team can be successful.”
Granted, this isn’t the NBA of fifteen years ago, stocked with low-post players like Hakeem, Ewing, Shaq, Dikembe, the Admiral, Chief, Smits, Brad Daugherty, ‘Zo, even Vlade. But until everybody in the league starts running small ball and becomes the Golden State Warriors, you’re going to need a center. And even the Warriors have Andris Biedrins – a superior defender who takes and makes high percentage shots.
Preseason reports are that Kendrick Perkins has dropped 19 pounds to get down to 264. Greg Dickerson says he’s at 268. Neither figure puts him at the 255 that he wanted, but it’s enough to relieve some of the pounding those feet took last year when he was hampered by plantar fasciitis. Perk is an affable guy and by all accounts a hard worker. He’s still just 22 years old. But after four years, you’ve got to wonder. He’s played the last two years on a garbage team and hasn’t been able to stay on the court – averaging 20 minutes a night over the last two seasons – Doc yanks him when he picks up fouls or it becomes clear that he has nothing to offer on the offensive end against opposing centers.
Since 2003 we’ve found this out about Perk: he’s awfully slow to the ball and makes Dikembe Mutombo look like George Mikan. Hook shot, hook shot, hook shot, hook shot. This Celtics team is going to need a steady hand at the 5 spot. Someone who is aggressive but also intelligent. That person doesn’t have to be a superstar, just avoid critical mistakes and keep the other team’s big man off the glass and the score sheet. And if you think KG is going to log minutes getting bashed around in the paint every night; you don’t understand the game of basketball. Perk has always said “I wanna play,” and this year, the ball’s in his court.
I was watching the game against McHale’s Navy today and he did some things he’s going to need to do this year: keeping the ball above his head and squaring to the basket at the top of the key and looking for a duck-in. Dishing out to a guard and moving from the high block to the low block to establish position. Hitting a fadeaway J in the paint after a power dribble. Grabbing a board and making an upfake instead of going back up and getting stripped. Maybe Garnett, or somebody, has finally gotten to Perk and showed him that there’s more to life than the righty hook. If this is the case, I’m elated. But after watching Perk the last few years, I’m not going to jump on the train, just yet.
Looking down the bench for relief? Scot Pollard is hurt already and is about as reliable as my 1993 Ford Tempo (a car I sold 3 ½ years ago for 700 bucks). Batista works hard, has good footwork, and can box out. He gets open too, which would be valuable if the entire second unit (Mr. Allen, Mr. House, Mr. Posey) wasn’t dribbling with their heads down.
But preseason games are also where Brian Scalabrine fires away from 3-point range and evokes memories of Detlef Schrempf. I need to see Batista get some real action. Same with Perk. Until I’m proven wrong by these two big men, I’ve gotta voice my concern.