HANG TIME WEST – There is nothing hidden about Kendrick Perkins. He was a first-round draft pick. He won a championship with the Celtics. His 2011 acquisition was widely viewed as one of the final moves to the Thunder becoming title contenders.
But Perkins plays on the same team with a pair of stars who dominate the spotlight, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and James Harden is on a path to a similar level. Perkins isn’t even the most acclaimed of the Oklahoma City big men – power forward Serge Ibaka led the league in blocks despite playing just 27.2 minutes a game and finished second to Tyson Chandler of the Knicks for Defensive Player of the Year. There is a certain anonymity to the Thunder’s starting center.
Not to Mike Brown, though. The Lakers coach exited the playoffs with nothing short of raves after Perkins and the Thunder finished off Los Angeles on Monday to advance to the Western Conference against the Spurs, opening Sunday in San Antonio.
“One of the things, in my opinion, that kind of goes unnoticed is they get a toughness, a physicalityness, from having Kendrick Perkins,” Brown said. “You do look at a Westbrook and you do look at Durant and Ibaka’s ability to block shots and Harden coming off the bench. But to me, this is a completely different team if you take Perk out of the equation.
“He’s almost like the heart and soul, and he does a great job of bringing it for as long as he’s on the floor, especially down the stretch. They feed off of that. That’s what makes them, in my opinion, a playoff team.”
Is Perkins the best post defender in the NBA?
“I would have to think about it,” Brown said. “But if he’s not the best, he’s got to be one of the top three. He’s a big guy and if you look at him, you think that he might be slow, but he’s got great feet. He’s got great toughness, not only physically with his strength but also mentally. One possession, he’ll start behind, he’ll push you out, he’ll go in front, he’ll go back behind when the ball moves, he’ll front again, and then he’ll get back in front just to box you out or he’ll root you out. We call that kind of stuff multiple effort. He gives it on every single flipping possession. It’s stuff that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet, but it’s very effective for this team.”
There was one important development that did show up on the stat sheet. Perkins went from straining a hip muscle and playing eight minutes in the first-round finale against the Mavericks to aggravating the injury and lasting 17 minutes in the opener of the second round to what now finally appears to be the full recovery of 32, 31, 32 and 33 minutes the last four contests. That’s a lot of physicality.