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Sunday, February 28, 2010
C's Perkins on the mark

By Chris Forsberg
ESPNBoston.com

Boston Celtics big man Kendrick Perkins is well aware of the franchise record he's chasing for best single-season field goal percentage. After all, Cedric Maxwell won't let him forget it.

Shooting a robust 61.7 percent from the floor, Perkins is on pace to top Maxwell's 30-year-old record of 60.9 percent set during the 1979-80 campaign.

"I'm really not worried about it, but Max always brings it up," Perkins said to laughter before Saturday's loss to the New Jersey Nets. "Every time I go out to get ready or get our layups in during warm-ups, he's always bringing it up, saying, 'You ain't got it yet, you ain't got it yet.' He always brings it up."

Kendrick Perkins
Kendrick Perkins is emerging not only as a more complete player, but also as a leader for the Celtics.

Maxwell, who serves as the color commentator for Celtics radio broadcasts on WEEI (850 AM), will have a front-row seat if Perkins is to break the mark. Perkins' percentage has slipped a bit since the early part of the season, when he hovered around 64 percent, and Boston's struggles as a team clearly have hindered his quest.

"To get into the Celtics' record book, that'd be a great honor," Perkins said. "Just to have your name up there somewhere would be cool. I'm not worried about it. I'm just trying to go out there and play basketball. Obviously, I'd like to make every shot I take, not just because of the record. That's just what I want to do."

Perkins actually could have already cemented his place in the team annals. During the Celtics' championship season of 2007-08, he shot 61.5 percent but failed to reach the minimum 300 made field goals. This despite appearing in 78 games in which he connected on 214 of 348 attempts.

Perkins hasn't been nearly as bashful since then. His shot total jumped 130 shots to 478 last season, and this season he's already put up 402 attempts. He needs 53 more buckets to qualify for the percentage crown, which, barring injury, wouldn't appear to be a problem.

Perkins could not only break the Celtics' mark but also lead the NBA in field goal percentage (something Maxwell did twice, in 1978-79 and 1979-80).

Perkins currently boasts a slight cushion over Orlando's Dwight Howard (60.7 percent). No one else is even close. (Denver's Nene Hilario is third at 58.5 percent.)

"I'm supposed to have a high percentage," said Perkins, who is shooting 76.2 percent at the rim, according to stats compiled by HoopData.com. "I'm taking easy shots. I'm just trying to take the best shots possible."

That Perkins is leading the NBA in one of the featured offensive categories is a testament to his development, particularly on offense. Perkins has long been regarded as one of the best young defensive players in the game; now his offense is rounding out his game.

Perkins is averaging 10.9 points per game, an upgrade of better than 25 percent from last season, when he averaged 8.5 points per game while shooting 57.7 percent.

Although Perkins seemingly has fallen into some bad habits at times during Boston's recent struggles, he has been downright phenomenal at times. During November, he shot 67.3 percent from the floor (74-of-110) while averaging 12.7 points to go with 8.6 rebounds and 2 blocks in 28.6 minutes per game.

He's slipped to 8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in February as his field goal percentage slipped to 55.7 (39-of-70) in 25.2 minutes per game. (With Boston trailing late in games so often recently, the need for an offensive lineup has meant Rasheed Wallace or Glen Davis have been getting crunch-time minutes.)

About the only other criticism Perkins has heard this season -- aside from his temper sometimes getting the best of him -- is that his rebounding numbers are down after peaking at 8.1 boards per game last season.

Perkins is 13th in the league at 25.1 percent in defensive rebounding percentage -- an estimated percentage of available defensive rebounds a player grabs while on the floor -- and 15th in total rebounding percentage at 17.2 percent. All of which suggests he's still in the upper tier of rebounders based on his time on the floor.

Much has been made about the Celtics' need to get younger in order to remain competitive in the future. To that end, it seems the team would benefit from spending some time this offseason trying to lock up Perkins.

The 6-foot-10 center is set to make $4.39 million in the final year of his contract in 2010-11, and the Celtics, having already secured Rajon Rondo (five years, $55 million) earlier this season, would be well served to lock up Perkins as well.

Remember that Perkins turned 25 only recently and was three months younger than Lester Hudson, Boston's second-round pick in last year's NBA draft.

Perkins is refreshingly candid in the Celtics' locker room. He tells you exactly how he feels, such as before the All-Star break, when he was one of the first to suggest that this team needed a break to get its collective head together.

Perkins spent nearly eight minutes chatting with reporters before Saturday's game against the Nets, openly answering all sorts of questions, including whether Boston had become bored with the regular season.

In his seventh season, Perkins is still developing his game and maturing as a person, and he's quietly becoming a leader. His trajectory suggests that some day there could be a new Big Three featuring him, Rondo and whoever emerges as Boston's next young star.

But dreams of the next Big Three can't come true unless Boston locks up No. 43.

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.