WALTHAM, Mass. -- The faded piece of paper is long gone, not needed anymore. For what felt like an eternity, it was taped to
"[The list] reminded me not to get frustrated with them about fundamentals," said Rivers. "Because they [didn't] have a lot of them."
The list is history, along with most of the players. Green is out of the NBA and Telfair and Jefferson are wearing different uniforms. And the one player who remains on the roster, Perkins, isn't a cause for concern anymore. Boston holds a 2-0 series lead over Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals, thanks in large part to the rugged defense of the fundamentally sound Perkins, who has frustrated
"There's probably only four or five guys in the NBA who can do that," said Rivers.
Perkins' defensive technique has improved significantly since he arrived in the NBA in 2003 straight out of Clifton J. Ozen (Texas) high school. His footwork is superior and he can cleverly anticipate many moves. But there is not a lot of science to his style. You hit him, he hits you back. You hit him again, he hits you harder.
"Perkins is a throwback big man," said
Said Rivers, "
The NBA landscape isn't littered with prolific scoring pivots, but most of the ones out there Perkins is often able to contain. In March, Perkins held Dallas'
This level of defense was exactly what Rivers hoped he would get when he took over the Celtics in 2004. It's why the coaching staff took great pains to make sure Perkins was forced to become an elite defender.
"We identified early on what we thought he could be," said Rivers. "It takes some time for guys to buy into that. Everyone wants to be a great scorer. Since he has been here we have tried not to trap with Perk. He has had to learn the hard way by guarding tough guys not getting a lot of help. Over the long haul I think he has gotten better and better. His feet are great. He studies film. I think he has had a great education of bigs. And when
As Perkins defensive prowess grows, so too does his confidence. Ask him who the best post defender in the game is, Perkins points to his chest. If Boston is to finish off Orlando and advance to their second NBA Finals in the last three years, that's exactly what he has to be.