BOSTON — It’s been nearly eight full years since the Boston Celtics captured their 17th NBA championship, and a lot has changed for Kendrick Perkins since then.
But as the New Orleans Pelicans big man returns to Boston to take on his former team, he sees a little bit of the old magic in this overachieving Celtics squad.
Perkins played a key role as the starting center on that talented 2007-08 team led by the Big Three trio of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, as well as budding point guard Rajon Rondo. With just one All-Star on their roster, the 2015-16 team can’t match the ’08 club’s talent, but Perkins sees some of the same depth and, more importantly, heart.
“When they come in off the bench with Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, they’re not losing a beat,” Perkins said before Wednesday’s Celtics-Pelicans game at TD Garden. “They remind me a little bit of the ’08 team in this aspect, as far as, they don’t want to disappoint their teammates. So, you can tell, one guy goes to help, and they help. It’s very impressive to watch.”
Perkins, who is in his 15th NBA season with his fourth team, had particularly high praise for Jae Crowder, the Celtics’ starting swingman who has put up career-high offensive numbers while maintaining his high level of defense.
“I just like his tenacity, more so than anything,” Perkins said of Crowder. “If you’re on the sideline and you’re watching him play, he can be not even in the play and he’s talking to the defense, that type of stuff that the average fan doesn’t notice that brings a lot to the team.
“He doesn’t care who he matches up with, he doesn’t care what position he plays. He brings it every position. You’ve got to respect a guy like that, and then guys feed off that.”
The Celtics have clinched a playoff spot, but recreating the 2008 team’s success — at least this season — seems unlikely. But the 31-year-old Perkins believes this squad, like the ’08 team, is definitely a place he would feel comfortable.
“For sure,” Perkins said. “They are really rolling. A nice unit.”
Thumbnail photo via Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports Images