Pregame notes: Help is on the way

BOSTON -- Celtics center Kendrick Perkins expressed optimism that he'd be able to return to game action in as little as three weeks, while coach Doc Rivers indicated that forward Kevin Garnett could return to Boston's starting lineup as early as Monday in a bonanza of positive injury news before Friday's tilt with the Toronto Raptors.

Perkins, who tore his right ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals in June, got clearance to begin contact activities earlier this week and has participated in 3-on-3 games with teammates the past two days. Perkins said he plans to resume full-team practice activities next week and a three-week window suggests he could be back in time for Boston's west coast road trip, including the first meeting this season with the Los Angeles Lakers on January 30.

Neither Perkins nor Rivers would establish a definitive timeline, but Perkins gushed with optimism about his progress, noting he's had no setbacks and hasn't even experienced any swelling since increasing his activity this week. Perkins knows the biggest hurdle with be the mental aspect of trusting his right knee again and not worrying about a re-injury, but said he's not concerned about that.

"I just figure, if it happens it happens," said Perkins. "If it doesn’t, that's a good thing. It's nothing I'm worried about. I literally have it in my mind that Dr. [Brian] McKeon fixed it better than my other leg. So that’s how I go at it. And if something happens, I’m going to put it all on him."

Perkins resumed on-court, non-contact activity in late December, but the 3-on-3 games under the eye of director of basketball development Tyronn Lue are the latest leap in his recovery. A late January/early February return would mean he has still been able to get back from the ACL tear little more than six months after surgery.

It's still not fast enough for him.

"It feel like these three weeks are not going by fast enough," said Perkins. "But I guess the six months went by pretty fast. I'm trying to wait it out, see how it goes."

Perkins also reiterated his preseason proclamation that he expects to resume his starting role when he returns (though he did note that he wouldn't be opposed to a game or two off the bench as he eases back in). But the mere fact that he's able to start worrying about that process is just another sign of how far along his recovery is.

A couple other pregame notes:

* While Rivers didn't have any formal update on Garnett, he did suggest the Big Ticket could be back on the court as early as Monday's visit from the Houston Rockets. "He's shooting, doing everything," said Rivers. "I think he’ll be back early next week. What’s the date again?" Informed by reporters that two weeks would have him back on Wednesday, Rivers smiled and added, "Thank you very much. I think he'll be back Monday or Wednesday. I think he could play by then."

Asked if Garnett might need a practice to shake any rust, Rivers smiled again and said: "We're just going to throw him in. If he can't remember the stuff, we're in trouble."

* Rivers confirmed that rookie center Semih Erden is back at full health after battling a stomach bug that sidelined him for three games around the Christmas holiday. The team is simply leaning on rookie Luke Harangody now.

"We’ve gone in another direction," said Rivers. "We're just playing Luke in front of him. One reason is Kevin is out. We need a 4 and we have two 5s. Another reason is that, Luke in practice, the ones we have had, I like his energy."