Kevin Garnett could play Monday

BOSTON -- Celtics center Kendrick Perkins expressed optimism Friday that he'd be able to return to game action in as little as three weeks, while coach Doc Rivers indicated that forward Kevin Garnett could return to Boston's starting lineup as early as Monday.

Rivers didn't have any formal update on Garnett before Friday's game with the Toronto Raptors, but he did suggest the veteran forward could be back on the court as early as Monday's visit from the Houston Rockets.

"He's shooting, doing everything," said Rivers. "I think he'll be back early next week."

Asked if Garnett might need a practice to shake any rust, Rivers smiled and said: "We're just going to throw him in. If he can't remember the stuff, we're in trouble."

Perkins, who tore his right ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals in June, got clearance to begin contact activities earlier this week and has participated in 3-on-3 games with teammates the past two days. Perkins said he plans to resume full-team practice activities next week, and a three-week window suggests he could be back in time for Boston's West Coast road trip, including the first meeting this season with the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 30.

Neither Perkins nor Rivers would establish a definitive timeline, but Perkins gushed with optimism about his progress, noting he's had no setbacks and hasn't even experienced any swelling since increasing his activity this week. Perkins knows the biggest hurdle will be the mental aspect of trusting his right knee again and not worrying about reinjuring it, but said he's not concerned about that.

"I just figure if it happens, it happens," said Perkins. "If it doesn't, that's a good thing. It's nothing I'm worried about. I literally have it in my mind that Dr. [Brian] McKeon fixed it better than my other leg. So that's how I go at it. And if something happens, I'm going to put it all on him."

Perkins resumed on-court, noncontact activity in late December, but the 3-on-3 games under the eye of director of basketball development Tyronn Lue are the latest leap in his recovery. A late January/early February return would mean he was able to get back from the ACL tear in little more than six months after surgery.

It's still not fast enough for him.

"It feel like these three weeks are not going by fast enough," said Perkins. "But I guess the six months went by pretty fast. I'm trying to wait it out, see how it goes."

Perkins also reiterated his preseason proclamation that he expects to resume his starting role when he returns -- though he did note that he wouldn't be opposed to a game or two off the bench as he eases back in.

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.