Kendrick the Schmendrick

Second-year rookie (you read that right) Kendrick Perkins had a breakout game for the Celtics against the Knicks. Is he a real wizard? Is he Boston's latest lucky charm?

Perkins played 25 minutes against the Knicks on Wednesday, December 22, 2004. Remember that date. It was an early Christmas present for Boston.

Compare his 25 minutes in that one game to his 35 minutes total that he played in as a rookie. The big center out of high school spent all of last year conditioning his big, wide body into a mass of twitching muscle ready to outrebound and outhustle anyone on the court. Early this year, his newfound strength was a little too much for him, and he would use it gleefully, like a kid playing with a new Christmas toy. He was so strong he would foul unintentionally. That limited his minutes enormously. The first pre-season game he played, he fouled out in just 13 minutes.

But he has learned to control his body and his strength. On Wednesday, he had just one foul total in his 25 minutes of action. At the same time, he led Boston in rebounding, grabbing a total of 13 boards.

Perkins is a magician, a wizard, a Harry Potter, a Schmendrick from the movie The Last Unicorn. Last year, he was second in the league in versatility per minute, defined as the product of points per minute, rebounds per minute, and assists per minute. He was second only to MVP Kevin Garnett.

Perkins is a terrific passer out of the post, a strong rebounder, and a solid low-post player. If he gets the ball in the paint, he does not have the offensive arsenal that Al Jefferson has, and he will tend to just back his guy in a bit and toss in a hook or lay-up, but he can get the job done. Right now, Doc Rivers is grooming him to essentially be the next Ben Wallace, focusing on his rebounding and defense.

But the greatest thing that can be said about him, the one statistic that truly elevates him to Schmendrick or lucky charm status, is how he helps his team while he's on the floor. Versatility is great, but does it get you wins? Does it increase your lead while you are on the floor?

Far and away, it does, when Kendrick Perkins takes the floor. The web site tracks the change in the net score while each player is on the court and the change in the net score while each player is off the court. Weighing both of them on a per-48 minute basis and looking at the difference gives you what they call the Roland rating, a measure of how important someone is to the team's effort.

For example, Kevin Garnett leads the Timberwolves in this department. When he is on the court, the team tends to win games by an average of 7.6 points per 48 minutes. When he is off the court, the team tends to lose games by an average of 9.8 points per 48 minutes. The difference, or net, is an astonishing +17.4: that's how many points Garnett contributes to a 48-minute game relative to if he hadn't played that game.

Who leads the Boston Celtics? Is it Paul Pierce? With Pierce on the floor, the team tends to go up by about 4.7 points; with him of the floor, the team tends to give up 6.2 points. Pierce's net is also a whopping 11 points.

But he's not the leader.

Perkins is.

With Perkins on the floor, the team goes up by a whopping 19.3 points per 48 minutes. With him off the floor, they still do okay, tending to win games by 1.3 points. Still his net is a jaw-dropping 18 points, higher than Pierce, and higher even that MVP KG.

Expect to see a lot more of Kendrick Perkins. Though he may have gotten his chance at least partially due to injuries (Raef LaFrentz was resting his injured ankle as a precaution), he should quickly work his way into the regular rotation and provide strong rebounding and defense at a moment's notice.

It may be too early for tattoos but it's certainly time to get the signs and T-shirts ready. It's spelled P-E-R-K-I-N-S.

The magic is back in Boston.

Happy holidays.