C's Kendrick Perkins says job is his

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics center Kendrick Perkins produced some of the biggest laughs of Monday's media day. But when a reporter asked Perkins if he thought he'd have to fight for his job when he returned to action following offseason knee surgery, the big man got serious.

"I really don't want to answer this question because I don't want to start nothing," Perkins said. "But, really, my spot is not up for grabs. So when I come back I will be in my spot, everybody else will just have to adjust to me after that."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers is fond of noting that everyone says the right thing this time of year, but that opinions often change when the ball goes up. Perkins, however, was quite blunt in asserting that he doesn't feel his job will be in jeopardy.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge raised some eyebrows during a conference call in August following Shaquille O'Neal's introduction when he suggested the opposite.

"I'm sure Perk's going to be worried and nervous since we are going to win games with this front line even when he's not playing," Ainge said then. "I'll be sitting with and talking with Kendrick throughout this whole process and hopefully he can just focus on getting healthy and competing for his job back."

With Perkins sidelined, the Celtics will insert either Shaq or Jermaine O'Neal into the lineup, which Ainge has suggested will be the case until near the All-Star break.

Perkins expressed optimism that his return date might be sooner following a solid summer of rehab.

"I'm feeling good. I've got a smile on my face, so I'm feeling great," Perkins said. "Everything has been going in a positive direction lately. Rehab is going great.

"I can't tell you when my return date is going to be, but I'm a little bit ahead of schedule. I don't want to jinx myself, but it's going really well."

Perkins stressed that he harbors no ill-will toward the O'Neals, both in terms of occupying his job to start the season or from any past battles.

"I'm trying to approach them in a happy-go-lucky way," said Perkins. "Just to let them know that when they were on the other team, it's business. But now that they're on my team, I'm the coolest guy they can be around.

"Like Doc says, we have one goal, not fighting for minutes or nothing of that nature. We're trying to win No. 18. I'm going to support them while I try to get back, and when I get back I've got to get back on the court. That's what it is."

Perkins said he expects to be around the team through training camp in Newport, R.I., noting that he wants to be part of the team-building experience and learn from the sidelines. He said he will work out individually with trainer Ed Lacerte and strength and conditioning coach Brian Doo as he continues to work his way back.

Decked out in full uniform, Perkins couldn't help himself when a ball bounced his way near a basket. He scooped up the ball and, gingerly, made a putback while shuttling between interview stations.

Perkins also touched on the dismissal of big man coach Clifford Ray (expressing disappointment, but understanding it's a business) and suggested that the Celtics would have won Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Lakers "by double digits" had he been healthy. Perkins tore his ACL early in Game 6.

Perkins also provided the biggest laugh of the day. Quizzed about whether he had seen the new NBA guidelines for technical fouls, Perkins admitted he wasn't up on the new rules. Informed he could get T'd up for "making aggressive gestures," perhaps like his menacing stares, Perkins was kidded by reporters that he'd better stay in the locker room until he's able to return to the court.

"That's not fair, I look mean anyway. Right now, you're looking at me, do you think I'm mad?" Perkins asked a reporter. Informed that he did, Perkins exclaimed, "But I ain't mad though!

"That's stereotyping," Perkins deadpanned as reporters continued to laugh.

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics and Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.