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BOSTON (CBS) – Kendrick Perkins returns to the TD Garden Monday night, but it’s not the way his former teammates or Boston Celtics fans wanted to see him come back.
Perkins and the Oklahoma City Thunder roll into the Garden for the center’s first game against his former team since being traded in a shocking deadline deal last season.
Perkins and guard Nate Robinson were sent to the Thunder for forward Jeff Green and center Nenad Kristic, a move that has gotten Danny Ainge a lot of criticism. A bastion down low, the Celtics D struggled mightily after Perkins was dealt, and were eliminated by the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs.
Read: Celtics-Thunder Preview
The young Thunder on the other hand made it to the Western Conference finals, where they lost to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks.
But it doesn’t matter if he is wearing green or not. To Boston head coach Doc Rivers, Perkins will always be a Celtic.
“I don’t give a crap what uniform he has on, he’s a Celtic for life and he knows that,” Rivers said of Perkins after Boston’s 97-83 loss in Indiana Saturday night.
And although he is fitting in and enjoying success on the 11-2 Thunder, the feeling is mutual for Perkins.
“It means a lot,” Perkins said of Doc’s comments on Monday. “I still got a close relationship with Doc. I got a close relationship with Rondo, KG, Paul and Ray. When you win a championship together, you have a bond that no one can break. You can’t break that bond. I left one great situation to go to another great situation. Not every player who gets traded can say that.”
Perkins said he went to dinner with Rondo on Sunday night, who he speaks with nearly every day. Rondo paid this time, but Perkins said he will pick up the bill when the C’s go to Oklahoma next month.
It will be interesting to see how Perkins and Kevin Garnett get along under the basket Monday night. Both bring an enormous level of intensity to the floor, especially on defense, and when those two collide, who knows what could happen.
“It will be emotional, I’m sure. But you have to remind yourself where you are and remember that it’s a basketball game. You had friendships with these guys, so it’s hard,” said Perkins. “But I’m going to have to put my scowl on because I’m pretty sure KG is going to have his scowl on.”
And while it looks like the two teams are heading in opposite directions, Perkins is confident his old squad will be there when the postseason comes around despite their current 4-7 record.
“They’re going to make the playoffs,” he said. “And whatever team that they play, I’ll feel sorry for that team.”
Guard Keyon Dooling will likely miss his third straight game for the Celtics, with center Chris Wilcox likely out as well. Expect more from rookies E’Twaun Moore and Greg Stiemsma in their place.
Moore played a career high 20 minutes Saturday night against the Pacers, scoring seven points on three-for-seven shooting while pulling down three rebounds and dishing out a pair of assists.