Perkins Dubs Davis Key to Replacing Him
So when Perkins learned he wouldn't be able to play in Thursday's Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Lakers due to a knee injury, one of the first things he did was mentor Davis, a reserve big man who seems a lot younger than his years. It's no wonder his nickname is "Big Baby.''
"I've been talking to Baby all day (Wednesday), throughout the film session,'' Perkins said shortly after he learned Wednesday morning he had suffered torn medial and posterior cruciate ligaments when he landed awkwardly on his right leg and was done for the night midway through the first quarter of Tuesday's Game 6. "I told him he's the most important guy right now, just with his young legs, his finishing around the basket, his defense. I think he's the key. Rasheed (Wallace) obviously is going to play a huge role. But I told Baby if he gets 11 rebounds (Thursday), we have a pretty good shot of winning the game.''
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he doesn't know yet whether the 6-foot-9, 289-pound Davis or the 6-11, 230-pound Walllace will start Game 7 in Perkins' place. But Davis, a low-post presence, while Wallace is more of a jump shooter, does figure to be the more important piece whether he starts or not.
"It feels good,'' Davis said of Perkins anointing him as the key. "He understands what's going on. He sees me being a big factor, me being the difference in the game and there's nothing wrong with that. I feel the same way too.''
Of course, it depends upon which Davis shows up. Will it be the one who excelled in last spring's playoffs and provided instant energy off the bench last week in scoring 18 points in Boston's Game 4 win or the one who has gone scoreless the past two games?
Davis has been talking a big game since after the Lakers won 89-67 Tuesday to tie the series 3-3. He offered what sounded like a guarantee when he said, "We'll be there at the end holding the trophy up.''
On Wednesday, Davis hadn't slowed his mouth down much.
"What do I want?'' Davis said when asked that. "I want to be on a float taking my shirt off, screaming, celebrating a championship. I want to be on a float next Monday. It'll be probably Sunday or Monday.''
Perhaps a basket or two by Davis first might be nice. He at least did have nine rebounds Tuesday, two shy of Perkins' magical number for Game 7.
Perkins was hurt when he came down wrong while battling Lakers center Andrew Bynum and guard Kobe Bryant for a rebound. He'll have surgery soon, and there's no guarantee he'll be fully healthy by the time training camp starts in 3 ½ months.
But Perkins wasn't thinking much about that Wednesday. He was worried about not being with his team for the biggest game of the season.
"This is big,'' Perkins said. "Celtics-Lakers. Just being a part of this whole thing that is going on with the history and everything. Some guys, you only get to the Finals one time. Luckily for me, I've been there twice (Boston beat the Lakers in 2008). But you want to help your team win. It's just real hard sitting out.''
Perkins sure didn't think it would come to this. He packed lightly, believing the Celtics were going to wrap matters up in Game 6.
"If I can get some clothes, I'll sit on the bench,'' Perkins said of Game 7. "I only packed one pair of clothes because I thought we were going to play only one game.''
The 6-10, 280-pound Perkins didn't expect to be playing Thursday. But now it's become for an entirely different reason.
Still, the Celtics are remaining confident despite not having their Rock of Gibraltar in the paint, one reason they ended up being outrebounded 52-39.
"It's unfortunate that we lose one of our guys who have been so big for us in the playoffs,'' said forward Paul Pierce. "But that means other guys got to be ready to step up. We've got 'Big Baby.' We've got Rasheed. And, if possible, we've got Shelden Williams. We've got guys capable of coming in there. All we ask is one game as hard as you can go.''
If Davis is at his best, that sure would help. With forward Kevin Garnett out due to a knee injury, Davis averaged 15.8 points in last spring's playoffs.
Davis then dubbed himself "The Ticket Stub,'' a play off Garnett's "The Big Ticket.'' Even with a different guy out, Davis said his nickname sticks.
"We're capable enough to take up the slack for Perk,'' Davis said. "The Ticket Stub is coming.''
Davis had success in Game 4, when he scored 11 of his 18 points in the second half with Lakers center Andrew Bynum on the bench with continued problems with his ailing right knee. Bynum, who is playing on a torn meniscus that will require offseason surgery, experienced some tightness in Game 6 but said he "definitely'' will play Thursday.
"I'm just going to try to play as hard as I can given my current condition,'' Bynum said.
Bynum wished Perkins the best. Perkins said his knee might have been OK had much of Bynum's weight not come down on him.
But Perkins expressed no ill will, knowing it was an accident. That Perkins was talking at all to the media Wednesday before Boston's practice was considered a surprise by many.
"I would have ducked out, actually,'' said Boston point guard Rajon Rondo. "(Perkins is) a class act. He's going to be a part of this. He wants to be here (for the whole Finals experience).''
Rondo is nursing an injury of a much lesser nature. He was wearing a bandage covering the 17 stitches he had on his chin thanks to a Ron Artest elbow late in Tuesday's quarter.
"Seventeen stiches and no foul (called),'' Rondo said.
It was a forgettable game all around for Rondo, who shot 5 of 15 for 10 points and had five rebounds. In his previous Staples Center appearance, Rondo had a triple-double of 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in Boston's Game 2 win.
Several Boston players said that with Perkins out some more rebounding would be nice from Rondo. But there were few doubts that Davis is the biggest key, just as old man Perkins has told him.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson