There is a problem here; but it is not Perkins’ return. The real problem is if he doesn’t make it back. While Shaquille has been a big, in every sense of the word, surprise, and a pleasant one, but his contributions will be maximized if his minutes are kept in the 22 to 24 range. Right now Semih Erden is trying to shoulder, oops poor choice of words, part of the load with an injury that should probably be operated on sooner rather than later. Jermaine has played only a couple of games, is out indefinitely, and is suffering from knee problems that fall in the chronic category. Kendrick can’t get back soon enough to suit me. As for the “starter” thing, Shaq pledged compliance with whatever Doc needed before and after signing and willingly came off the bench during preseason. Perkins saying in October that he plans to resume his job—isn’t that exactly the attitude you want from a role player facing about a 1000 hours of grueling rehab over some five months. Now in all honesty do you really think there’s going to be a starter/minutes problem from a Celtic draft choice who rebuilt his body and game under the team’s guidance, and who has been willing to play the least glamorous of roles, sign an extension for a discount, and has already said he’s eager to resign and finish his career in Boston? After nearly two decades in the Association Shaq has arrived at a point where he's content/willing/eager to do whatever the team needs to be successful; Perkins has played with that attitude his whole career. Besides if Doc feels it best Shaq start as Perk works his way back this year, it seems unlikely that next year (if there is a next season) Shaquille at 39 will be pushing for a greater role and Kendrick, hopefully back at full strength, will probably step back into his role as anchor of the middle.
If you just “have” to worry about Perk, consider that his knee injury was one of the most severe. After the surgical repair to a ruptured ACL, just one of the three Kendrick tore, it typically requires a year to regain anything near full speed and functionality. Fortunately Perkins is a workout demon and has successfully undertaken recovery from significant surgery before. Truth be known however, it would be prudent if he is not allowed to push this return, both for his career and be able to make his best possible contribution in May and June. It seems the most optimistic schedule has him returning sometime in February and he will likely be on limited minutes building slowly over a month or six weeks.
I see neither a problem with the egos involved nor a shortage of minutes available. With the plethora of injuries to the corps manning the middle, if anything the issue is more likely to be finding enough able-bodied minutes to cover the center position. In Perkins career he has typically logged minutes in the high 20’s, so even if he gets back to full speed a 28/20 split between Perk and Shaq works. Worried about minutes for Jermaine, Lord wouldn’t I love for the Celtics to have that problem. What about Big Baby’s minutes at center? Well a 20/28 PF split with Garnett works for me. Still, a finishing five with both Davis and Garnett on the floor keeps Shaq and Perk off the free-throw line, certainly not a bad thing. Even if all the big men return to healthy status, the original plan of giving one of the AARP applicants a game off on back-to-backs holds some real benefit. Nope, Perkins’ return is all good news, let it happen please.