Middle Men Will Swing WC Finals

DALLAS – Kendrick Perkins is coming home, so to speak, for the Western Conference finals.

A Beaumont, Texas, native, his first dip in this Red River NBA Rivalry should be an interesting one for another reason, considering he’ll be facing the man that almost had his job as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s starting center.

Before Tyson Chandler showed up here and helped turn the Dallas Mavericks into a defensive-minded force, he was on his way to the Thunder. Chandler was on his way to the Thunder, at the time he was traded from the New Orleans Hornets for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox, in a deal in February 2009 that was later rescinded when Chandler failed his physical (injured toe) with the Thunder’s medical staff.

Instead of manning the middle the for the upstart Thunder, Chandler is doing so for the Mavericks and is facing a player just as anxious to mix it up in the post as he is. That’s why we fully expect the play of these two big men to swing the momentum from night to night in this series.

“There’s no doubt about it,” a scout friend told me via text this morning when I raised the same point to him. “Whoever controls the middle of the lane controls this series. Even with all the explosive offensive talent that will be on display in that series, it’s going to come down to who can guard the rim the best.”

If you’ve watched the Mavericks as much as we have around here the past month, you’d understand how truly indispensable Chandler is for a team that had no defensive identity before he arrived.

And to think folks weren’t excited when the Mavericks pulled the trigger on the deal to get Chandler last summer, as Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com pointed out:

It was actually considered a letdown when the Mavs pulled the trigger on the trade July 13, days after the Charlotte Bobcats’ deal to send Chandler to the NBA Siberia known as Toronto fell through. There had been so much hype, fueled by owner Mark Cuban‘s vow to swing for the free-agency fences, that the Mavs would use Erick Dampier‘s expiring contract as a chip in a sign-and-trade deal to land a superstar to pair with Dirk Nowitzki.

Chandler, a nine-year veteran who had never been an All-Star and was coming off two injury-plagued seasons, didn’t fit that bill. However, with the ankle that had caused him to sit 68 games the previous two years completely healed, he did fill a major void for the Mavericks as a defensive-minded, athletically gifted big man with strong emotional and vocal leadership qualities.

“We knew he was capable,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “We knew that he was almost the perfect fit. It’s just, could he stay healthy? Once we got comfort with that this summer, and then he did the USA piece and that was another confidence builder, he just hit the ground running in training camp and never looked back.”

Perkins provides the same sort of toughness as the Thunder’s defensive anchor. He did the same thing for the Boston Celtics before they traded him in February, a move the Celtics paid for dearly as they headed for an early vacation last week at the hands of the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Without Perkins there to watch Kevin Garnett‘s back, the Celtics had to rely on Jermaine O’Neal to handle those duties and as good as he was earlier in his career, he wasn’t up to the task. Shaquille O’Neal never got healthy enough to resume his role with the Celtics.

The Celtics’ loss has been the Thunder’s gain. As NBA.com’s Shaun Powell wrote in this same space in March, Perkins changed everything for the Thunder and that includes speeding up the championship clock for Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the youngsters.

Perkins was a great fit in Boston, on and off the floor, and especially in the Celtics’ locker room. You saw how emotional they all were when Danny Ainge made the deal. Still, as great as the ride was with the Celtics, Perkins might be having an even better experience this time going up against his home state Mavericks, per his own words to The Oklahoman:

“Yeah, it does [feel different this time]. As soon as we won last night, I got all kinds of phone calls about tickets so it made me feel close to home. One thing I can say, when I was in Boston, it was fun. But last night, it was real fun. Being around a group of guys – KD (Kevin Durant), who’s just a great guy – and then just to see all the (fans react), it was just unbelievable. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

66 Comments

  1. Rich says:

    SO does everybody believe now why this hype is laughable ? Chandler makes bug difference for MAVS. Perkins will just show why Celtics gave him away.

    Hey Freddie Brown, do you believe now how unstoppable Dirk is ? The next week will be too painful for OKC and their fans as they will suffer loss, after loss, after loss…

  2. Baviral Binha says:

    I think OKC will start random D-Leaguers and they will pwn the dallad Mavericks. OKC in 3!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dallas will forfeit the last game because of the awesomeness of Mateen Cleaves out of retirement.

  3. alphaeng says:

    Celtics’ loss is Thunder’s gain. Could Perkins have made a difference if he stayed in Boston against Miami? Could he extend the series? Or, better yet, could the Celtics have won if Perkins did not leave Boston?

  4. Amitpal says:

    I think OKC is better off starting Nick Collison over Kendrik. Start Serge at center and nick at power forward. Cause Kendrik is useless in this series. There is no good center to defend and kendrik isn’t a shot blocker. Plus I think Nick collison can guard dirk as good as anybody.

  5. Amitpal says:

    I think mavs do win this series although it won’t be easy. The thunder are athletic so there defense rotation is going to be quicker then the lakers. Who are old and had no chemistry. I think the only thing that is going to bring the thunder down is 4 quarter scoring. The thunder have been really bad in late game scoring and dallas is probably the best in the nba at that. Although no one on dallas can stop Russel Westbrook or KD. And nick collison is going to do a good job against dirk so lets see. Either team can win it.

  6. mike says:

    Mavs in 6

  7. MIACB#4FAN says:

    Let me just say i am a miami fan and have been since 04 so none fo this bandwagon crap! but it doesnt really matter what happens know with OKC and Dallas as i see the bulls making it to the championchip and Dallas will not be able to compete with Chicago. OKC and Chicago would be a better series but this Year D-Rose is bringing the gold back to Chicago

  8. Ian in Boston says:

    Sorry to say but anyone thinking OKC is going to roll over once The Big Nowitzki walks on the floor is in for a surprise. The Thunder already had to adapt to the team playing the best regular season ball, statistically, that pushed at a super fast pace and to the team that hammered it inside and played some of the best body on body defense in the playoffs (remember the Spurs?). The Mavs are still their toughest test, but I think they’ll be able to adapt their shiny new defense to this team as well. What’s the #1 playoff rule? Best Player on the Floor? Thunder in 6.

  9. Vincent says:

    I’m all for thunders but I definitely think it will be a tough series for both teams. Dallas has all the right elements to win but unfortunately they will have tough time defending okc in the perimeters. Honestly I don’t think jj barea or j kid can keep up with westbrook. For OKC dirk , rebounding, inside game will be a problem. I too also think perkins is worthless… They could have traded green for someone better. maybe kaman? well thats my personal opinion. \
    ANyways! go KD and the OKC!

  10. KD35 Fan says:

    I want this series to start a new rivalry :D
    KD will put up his numbers but so will dirk.. So this game is pretty much about the bench and westbrook.. If westbrook smarten up just like he did in game 7 of OKC-Memphis series.. He is gonna do some serious damage.. But then again he is unpredictable.. I love mavs and dirk is one of my fav player.. but I’d say OKC in 6.. :D

  11. Im not too excited says:

    Its just that the Mavs are so much better than the Thunder and its a good Matchup for the Mavs. If it would have been the Grizzlies, iwe had an other discussion and an interesting series. But against the Thunder? Absolutely no doubt here. Cmon people, Mavs beat Thunder even without Dirk. And we all know that Mavs without Dirk are no better than Cleveland Cavaliers. Its a def SWEEP. And not only that. I think the Mavs will win every single Game by 10+.

  12. ddddd says:

    Even though both Chandler and Perkins dramatically improved their teams overall defenses in completely different ways, this matchup is pretty much going to be a statistical wash. Why you may ask…. Neither center has many plays called for them. The real matchup is going to be bench vs bench…. whos got the better there?
    Jet-vs-Hardin….. gotta give that matchup to Jet as he can go off at any time
    Barea-vs-Maynor…. Barea has found his bite and will be way more aggressive to the basket especially after that Bynum foul/shove
    Haywood-vs-Nazr Mohomad……. Gotta give that one to Haywood as he would definitely be starting on many teams in the league (and in Dallas if it werent for Chandler’s sudden re-discovery of his game)
    Peja-vs-Cook…. gotta say Peja and his newfound old game
    Collison is the wildcard here….. If Collison can pull a game like game 7 vs Memphis out then the Mavs will not have life very easy…. Otherwise I expect Dirk to be Dirk, KD to be KD and the rest will just fall into place according to how the benches play and how Westbrook plays against an old Kidd.

  13. Daniel G. says:

    and freddy.. name one player on the nba that can shut dirk down????…………………………….

    • TTOTambz says:

      I would pick a combination of Luol Deng and Joakim Noah on Chicago and Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins on O.K.C. (not saying they can shut him down BUT given the defensive stats in the playoffs I would say they would give it a great shot).

  14. Daniel G. says:

    and freddy brown… how many allstar appearances does durant have? how many times has he been to the finals, conference finals, or even the semis? at this stage in their careers… i dont even have to say who deserves more credit! come on now

    • Freddy Brown says:

      There is no comparison between Dirk and KD because KD is only 22 and Dirk is near his end of career. All I know is in 4 years KD won the scoring champion twice. He won MVP taking gold medal for the World series, and in 2 years he bring OKC team from a record 3-29 to 50+ win. I don’t see that in Dirk’s resume. Dirk is one of the all time good player but he is just overated.

  15. Daniel G. says:

    okc has got a ball hog point guard thats gonna create alot of drama in the future.. so stevieooo, dont be so sure!

  16. Daniel G. says:

    with caron butler back next season dallas could easily win back to back

  17. Daniel G. says:

    Dirk still has 3 or 4 great years left! are you kidding?

  18. Freddy Brown says:

    Dirk is a good player but he is so overated. If he’s good Dallas would probably win couple rings already or at least get to the Final a few time. Dallas is a good team this year due to the fact that they have good coach and good supporting cast. OKC on the other hand only take take a couple year to climb this hill. Therefore KD deserve a lot more credit than Dirk. WB and others also played an important roll in OKC’s success. Unstopable is a wrong word for Dirk.!!!

  19. Carrie Tolivert says:

    OKC will win this series in 6.

    Oldies can’t guard westbrook and durant… Nowitzki will score much but Westbrook and Durant is just too much for team.

    oh by the way, Perkins is not Erik Dampier Jr., he is Joel Anthony Sr.

  20. Deep3 says:

    Thunder will win the series, noone can stop Westbrook. Durant will score 35ish to offset Dork. Westbrook and Harden will combine for about 40, that offsets Terry, Chandler, and OLD kid. Then Serge, The Prenence, Thabo, Big Nick, Maynor, Cook will average arround 35, off sets Marion and there other crubs.

    Average OKC 110-Dumb-azz 92!

  21. GMAN says:

    i beleave its two great teams that put everything they had to be here!!! its going to be fun to watch!!!

  22. stevieooo says:

    OKC is a great team they are young and athletic.no way Mavs can stop westbrook and KD but Thunder also cant stop Dirk.If Thunder dont win,this is just a beginning for whats to come in the future.But if Mavs dont win,Dirk dont have alot time and gas in the tank to play in another Finals all the pressure is on Mavs and i dont think Mavs can beat Bulls or Heat in a 7 game series

  23. ryansouth says:

    Glad to see at least one former Celt still in the playoffs.

    Speaking of centers, did anyone read this article about replacing Chris Bosh with a “Christian” center?

    http://milkthebull.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/heat-need-a-good-christian-center-says-local-columnist/

  24. js says:

    Itll be a fun matchup with perk and chandler, but this series is going to come down to Dirk. Hes been an absolute monster and we’ll see what if the thunder can do what no other team has been able to. Ibaka is an athletic guy but a little unproven, we will see what he can do. I do think this series will end up being decided by Dallas’ experience. Its harped on alot, but really when you watched that mem/okc series, they got into luls and stretches of really bad offense, but Mem couldnt take advantage of it. they cant afford to do the same against dallas. westbrook CANNOT have his attention drift and start putting up crazy, 15 seconds left on the shotclock shots where durant doesnt even touch the ball. While he has the athletic advantage over Kidd, if games are tight down the stretch, I feel like J-Kidd is going to get the best of him when each possession is crucial

    • DeeWig says:

      JS, I have to agree with you. J Kidd was playing some extremely impressive D on Kobe last series on crucial possessions…now, given that Westbrook is quicker than Kobe, you gotta think that if JKidd can do a great job on Kobe, then he can do AT LEAST a decent job on Westbrook on crucial possessions. JKidd has many old man moves up his sleeve that could give Westbrook fits…we’ll just have to see how it plays out.

  25. DeeWig says:

    Perkins controlling the middle is laughable…this dude is Erik Dampier Jr; I don’t understand the big fuss about him at all. No skills, full of hot air. I’d take Serge over him any day from the Thunder’s perspective

    • sean says:

      hes basically just hard to move cause hes a big body haha good D

    • tata says:

      Kendrick Perkins is the most overrated tool in the box.

    • Rich says:

      Guess what ? I would take Dampier over Perkins any time of day. That said, there’s no reason to hype the match up between Perkins and Chandler. The deciding factor on this series is really whether how the MAVS can rotate defensively against a driving Westbrook; and how to make Durant’s field goal reduced to under 38%. Anything other than these 2 will be a given any night of the week. MAVS will get their points, MAVS will stop everything else the Thunder will do, MAVS will just simply be too much. MAVS to win in 5 at the most. And the lone win from Thunder will be a game that MAVS should’ve won. And this is the humblest I could go.

      • DeeWig says:

        I’ll have to agree with you about Westbrook, Rich. Also a determining factor is whether Westbrook takes as many jumpers as he did against Memphis….he’s defintely the X factor in this series. On the other side of the fence is how well OKC defends the perimeter & the pick and roll….i’m expecting a good series, winning game 1 is always big.

    • MoreGeezer says:

      You don t undestand amything about basketball… or at least about NBA

      • DeeWig says:

        Please elaborate MoreGeezer, at least throw some facts out there. Your simple statement means nothing.

  26. Joe Texas says:

    Can’t wait to watch some more Mavs basketball tonight. Going to be a great game!

  27. Katzy K. says:

    it seems like it should be a tough series but watching OKC in the last round… they struggle to run good offensive possessions at times. I think against the MAVS they won’t be able to get away with that.

    unless OKC gets better before the series get rolling Dallas will trounce them.

    • OKCKD35 says:

      Katzy you also have to take into account Memphis is one of the best D’s in the league, they are tough in the post and leade the league in steals, we may have had offensive lulls throughout the game but we are still scoring more thn any team in the playoffs, i dont see scoring enough as an issue in this series, i think both teams can score a lot, but where Dallas is its best (inside defense) we have a lot of players on our roster that can shoot from mid-range to the 3 line, we will have to see how Kidd will be able to keep up with westbrook (unless they try to switch stevenson but then Thabo would lock down on Kidd)

      • How is it that there is no talk of JJ Barea? I understand Kidd is our starting PG, but when JJ comes into the game he brings a completely diff style to the game He may be smaller, but that is the great thing about his game EVERYONE underestimates what he is capable of doing. He is just as quick as Westbrook and he can break down ANYONE to get to the lane(again this is where the interior defense will come into play), also, if Roddy is healthy enough, there is another PG that OKC will have to worry about containing. I say My Mavs will win in 6. This is our YEAR!

    • Freddy Brown says:

      I don’t know why people kept saying that OKC struggle against Memphis. Memphis beat the hell out of the best team in the league. Had Dallas played Memphis in the beginning, they probably gone fishing already. As for the Laker, before playoff they lost 5 or 6 in a roll, even to bad team. Wake up people, Dallas is a good team but OKC is a better team.

      • sean says:

        best team in the regular season*

      • Didn’t you watch the games to see that OKC struggled? They had some serious offensive lapse during the game and at times their ball rotation was horrible. Memphis is a GREAT team, OKC is GREAT as well, but my MAVERICKS have just a little bit more of what it takes to get over the hump. We will go to the championships.

      • DeeWig says:

        People say they struggled because it took them 7 games to beat them. If that’s not a struggle, I don’t know what is. Mavs are obviously the better and deeper team

      • tata says:

        Can’t they both lose? Hate doesn’t describe my feelings.

      • Rich says:

        If playing a 7th game and winning some games on extra time is not struggling enough for you, I don’t know if you really know what struggling means. SPURS had been the best team until 3 weeks before the playoffs when Duncan and Ginobli got injured. Teams, with the exception of the MAVS, were sandbagging to get the SPURS and avoid the Lakers in either 1st or 2nd round. Oh wait a minute, maybe you were not really following closely the games leading into the playoffs and all the actual playoff games.
        OKC have 2 outstanding, superb players BUT MAVS is a better team and they will advance in the Finals easily.

      • Lol If Thats The Case…. Then Dallas Struggled Against The Blazers!

      • Freddy Brown says:

        I guess last year the Laker were struggling against Boston too!!! A win is a win period!!!!!!

      • Rich says:

        Matter of fact, YES – the MAVS struggled a little bit against the Blazers because most of the games were very close. But none of those games were a game that the Blazers won. In fact, 2 of the games that Blazers won were actually games that MAVS should’ve won.
        The Blazers were good but they elected to cry first than to fix their faulty games. They actually have a ready reason why they’ll be defeated even before the series started. I mean seriously, that’s how they approached the series, with that negative feeling.

  28. benmkapa says:

    perkins will still be a celtics they will play the bulls, sadly shaq was unjured. Chandler is brilliant . it is going to be a taff serie. cant say what will happen to many weapon on each sides

    • Thin the herd says:

      I don’t even know what the hell you are saying. Is that english? If you look at the regular season, all throughout it the Mavericks tried many different sets offensively and defensively. Carlisle knew they would make the playoffs and didn’t care what seed. They practiced their different looks and situational execution to find what worked best against what type of teams. Other than a “touched by god’ experience with Roy, the Mavericks have executed precisely and without a doubt in their mind as to what they were doing. They are now comfortable in their different looks cause they used the regular season as a prac tice and trial season. No team in the playoffs this year is anywhere close to being as efficient as Dallas. I believe that Dallas Will take this series 4-1. Jet now has the confidence he has always pretended to have, Dirk is Dirk, Kidd is a technical wizard, Chandler/Haywood= most dominant production of any center position in the league except Howrard, Marions lane slicing offense and his defensive specialty, and the rest of the team especially the BENCH——- NO TEAM CAN TOUCH OUR BENCH from Barea on down to Cardinal,,, and guess what, we are doing this without our #2 scoring option and tough defender Caron Butler, and with a stalled/injured Roddy experiment. MAVS WIN IT ALL THIS YEAR — NO DOUBT!

      • sean says:

        go mavs! no doubting that they have a sick bench

      • I completely agree, we have many weapons and as long as we continue to clog the paint, we should be fine. I love what Chandler has brought to the team. I have ALWAYS known we had what it took to win, but FINALLY the Mavericks believe. ALSO, I often wonder where we would be if Caron had not have gone down. We have made drastic improvements regardless of him NOT being healthy and we have still made it to the conference finals…THIS IS THE CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM! Let’s get it MAVERICKS!! I will continue to support the Mavericks here in sunny FLORIDA! I bleed BLUE baby!!!

      • tata says:

        I’d bet anything Mavs LOSE because they are LOSERS.

      • DeeWig says:

        Hit the nail on the head! Just imagine if we had Caron…it’d be less touches for Marion on offense so he could be the clean-up man and defender he’s supposed to be!

  29. pakastallion says:

    A lot of people were focused on what the Lakers didn’t do last series instead of what the Mavs did do. This article compliments Smith’s point about the impact the Mav’s bigs have had on their team success:

    http://25twofour.com/2011/05/08/swept-mavericks-end-the-lakers%E2%80%99-bid-for-a-three-peat/

    Im taking the Mavs in 6 games games.

    • OKCKD35 says:

      The mavs are an excellent team, they beat the defending champions, however the thunder are no the Lakers, this series will be full of different challenges, namely the athleticism of OKC the Lakers are getting old, while they are a good team you could definately see their age in their rotation defense (which led to a buttload of uncontested 3′s) OKC has some good defensive big men as well, should make for some exciting basketball

      • Joe Texas says:

        Age didn’t have anything to do with the Lakers defense. Bynum is 22, and Odom is in his prime. The real reason for the Lakers bad defense was Dallas’s ball rotation, penetration, and multiple outside shooters on the floor at any given time.

      • sean says:

        your just ignorant if you think age had nothing to do with it because as you get older your lateral quickness deteriorates and almost all the players on the lakers are over 30 a couple years back i bet you they wouldve been able to keep up a lot better

      • tata says:

        The Lakers just weren’t hungry anymore. Would you race a starving guy to the buffet when you just had back to back banquets?

      • evryone says:

        mavs are probably gonna win in 7 games. the are kind of old, which translates 2 experience.okc has energy, but isnt experienced enuff 2 win.BULLS WILL PWN!!!!

      • Mavs says:

        First of all, Mavs are an old team too. Older than the lakers. Nowitzki, Kidd, Marion, Stojakovich, Chandler Haywood, Jet. Mavs are just a better team than the lakers.

      • Answer28 says:

        He He Sean You made me laugh :) how the hell can You accuse Joe, of being ignorant after he correctly stated the obvious fact, that age had nothing to do with LA being SWEPT, stop being ridicuolos, 4 out of 5 starters on the Mavs Team were older then they opponents with the exception of Kobe(1978) – Stevenson(1981), LA first 6 players were in total 10 years younger then the Mavs first 6. If you watched this series the first and most important factor was the matchup of the european Giants , clear win for Dirk, the same on the PG position where Barea and Kidd destroyed Fisher and Blake + Jet winning the 6th players battle, The main Reason for the that being the Lvl. of determination and will( as Tata said Hunger) to fight on every posession, not only in this series !! but having to play at least 12 or 14 more games to win the Title, including OKC and then Miami or Chicago in the Finals , and no guarantee of success, they started to Think is it worth when You can go fishing earlier??

    • DM8488 says:

      lot to be said about they werent hungry enuff i agree with phil leaving the locker room troubles the lakers werent the team of past! and yes age had a part as well.