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Kendrick Perkins speeds up his timetable, will return tonight

Jan 25, 2011, 7:07 PM EDT

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With Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal both sidelined during last Saturday’s game against the Wizards, the Celtics were forced to rely on Semih Erden and Glen Davis as the entirety of their center rotation. When healthy, Boston is the deepest team in the NBA, and yet for his particular game their frontline had dwindled down to a pair of last resorts.

Both O’Neals are set to miss tonight’s game as well, but the Celtics have an unexpected addition to their center core: Kendrick Perkins, who has missed the entire season to date with a right knee injury, will make his return to the lineup, according to the Celtics’ Twitter feed. Perkins claimed to be about two weeks away from game action as of this past Sunday, yet Doc Rivers is prepared to bring Perk off the bench to play 12-16 minutes in the middle. Whatever magical meal Perkins had for lunch on Monday, I’ll have two of ‘em.

Honestly, Perkins should need no introduction. His interior defense has been a huge asset to the Celtics, and his return represents something fairly frightening: a Celtics team even more fearsome and more complete than the one we’ve seen all year. Boston has had their ups and downs, but injuries aside they’re as good — or better — than any team in the league. Add Perkins to that already potent lineup and allow both O’Neals to come off the bench in the process (or start Shaq and brink Perkins off the bench, whatever Rivers fancies) and the Celtics look pretty damn solid inside. The rotations are there, the defensive pressure is there, and now, for the first time all season, the center position is starting to come together as intended. The next step is getting Perkins back into NBA shape and reintegrating both O’Neals, but this is a big day for Boston.

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