BOSTON — Kendrick Perkins is torn.
There really is just no other way to put it.
No matter how much he tells himself to hold back, to hide his unadulterated emotions, the big man knows that will be his toughest assignment on Monday night when he walks into Boston's TD Garden for the first time as a visitor.
“It's been a lot of different thoughts going through my head,” Perkins said. “You don't want to be too emotional, and you don't want to make it all about yourself because, really, it's all about us getting the win. But at the same time, you're playing against friends of yours. But I still got to be Perk. I still got to be me. It's kind of hard because you're caught in between.”
It's been 11 months since the Celtics pulled the trigger on the surprising trade that brought Perkins to the Thunder. And even though Perk will take the court with Oklahoma City etched across his jersey, his heart still holds a special place for the Celtics and the city of Boston.
This is where Perkins spent his first 7 1/2 seasons. He came to Boston as an 18-year-old kid but left here as a 26-year-old man. In between, Perk enjoyed good times and labored through bad times. He experienced injury-ravaged seasons and the pinnacle of success as a member of the Celtics' 2007-08 title team.
Those memories will remain with Perk forever. So, too, will the love and support Celtics fans reserved for him.
“It was unreal, similar to the love that I get (in Oklahoma City),” Perkins said. “It's very interesting when you can go to cities that the fans have a high basketball IQ and can see what your worth is. I know it may not show up every night in the stat sheet. But if you watch the game, you could be like, ‘Well, Perk played good tonight.' That shows a lot and that just keeps me going. So at the end of the day, like I said, you got mixed emotions. You try to approach it the right way. But at the same time, I'm really the leader of this squad and they follow me so I can't let the emotions get the best of me.”
Perkins said he plans on acknowledging the Celtics crowd when he's introduced Monday night. It'll be his way of showing his love and appreciation to the fans and the organization for everything that was done for him during his Boston days.
“Oh definitely,” Perk said. “I got too. It's no question. I'll do it for however long it takes. I'm definitely going to walk around and acknowledge the whole crowd and after that get to work.”
Perkins remains best friends with Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. Forward Kevin Garnett, for 3 1/2 seasons, was a mentor to Perk and continues to be like a big brother. Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been like a father figure.
Those are the relationships Perkins must look past when the ball is thrown up.
“When jump ball comes,” Perk said, “we're trying to win the game.”
Only Perkins is now playing for the other team, and he's admittedly anticipating what being on the visitor's side will be like.
“It's going to definitely be different,” Perkins said. “I know (Garnett) is going to make the intensity where it needs to be, and I'm going to make sure it's there too.
“But I know they're going to come at us. They're going to try to whoop our behinds. We need to be prepared. And vice-versa. We're coming in the same way. After everything is said and done, whatever they got planned and all that, we're going to get to work.”