Kendrick Perkins Still Not Over Finals Loss
If you are of a certain age, you will surely remember this popular commercial slogan from a stock brokerage firm: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”
Replace that name with “Kendrick Perkins” and the sentiment rings true.
Has there ever been a more straight-talking NBA player than Perk? So many players aim to say the “right” things on the record; their quotes rarely vary from what one would expect. Not Perkins. He’s refreshingly unpredictable and thoughtfully direct on any topic. The menacing act works well on the basketball court, yet in person, he’s different. He’s got that same intensity, but his communication skills contain an unexpected juxtaposition of soft and hard elements. And the guy could earn some bucks on the comedy circuit.
For instance, here are recent snippets from a few of his Oklahoma City Thunder teammates regarding the Finals loss to the Miami HEAT:
Kevin Durant: “We came up short and that’s tough, but it’s not guaranteed you’re going to get there every single year.”
James Harden: “I dealt with it this summer.”
Daequan Cook: “That’s over and done with.”
Eric Maynor: “We got there last year, but didn’t win it. That should be the least of our worries right now.”
Even Thunder head coach Scott Brooks: “We understand that we had a great year, but it’s time to move on.”
Now Perkins’ turn. With the passage of time, has he gotten over the loss?
“Nah, I still don’t watch Sports Center to this day because they’re so…,” Perkins said, his voice trailing off. “I don’t. I haven’t gotten over it.”
Recall the Thunder took the first win of the series, then they seemed to fall apart; Miami went on to win four in a row and capture the title. Perkins shared his thoughts on the the team crumbling in the Finals.
“I think we all understand what it takes to at least get to the Finals,” Perkins said. “I think the Finals was overwhelming to a lot of us. I think we got caught up in just being in the Finals and quit playing basketball.”
“We were too worried about making the right play at all times instead of making the simple play,” agreed Harden.
“I think a lot of guys on our team grew up last year in a lot of ways,” Perkins added.
On the topic of the Western Conference Finals, wherein OKC shocked the San Antonio Spurs by coming back from an 0-2 deficit to win the honors, Perkins held nothing back.
“We showed a lot of character on how we bounced back in the series against the Spurs,” Perkins said. “But we knew to beat them from the jump, so we just had to face a little adversity. That’s not something that we were proud of, but we did win out the West. I’m not saying that’s not a great accomplishment, but we had a bigger goal than that.”
He knew they could win, down 0-2 in a best-of-seven series to a team with the best record in the West? A team that had won their previous 20 games including sweeps in the first two rounds of the playoffs?
“Absolutely. They did what they were supposed to do and win two games at home, and they did nothing. We just had to make sure we come home and take care of our two and we go in for Game 5,” Perkins said.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is confidence.
This is what he said when asked what lasting value could be taken from that Spurs series: “I think it kinda all went out of the window, because when you have a bigger goal and you have a goal that you’re trying to reach, that goal is like anything in life. If you have a goal you’re trying to reach, you tend to achieve smaller goals trying to reach to your bigger goal, but that don’t mean you stop trying to reach to your bigger goal.
“At the end of the day, we didn’t reach our goal that we had. I mean, we achieved some smaller goals getting to that bigger goal, but we didn’t achieve the goal.”
“I really thought it was our year and felt like we had a good run, through beating Dallas, Lakers, San Antonio. I thought it was our time, but unfortunately it wasn’t,” shared Durant.
When Perkins was acquired mid-season by the Thunder nearly two years ago, he was immediately elevated to the status of wise, veteran leader. He had valuable playoff experience, instrumental to a then-up-and-coming team. He has an NBA championship ring courtesy of his stint with the Boston Celtics. He’s forthcoming to all and gives constructive criticism to his teammates. He plays through injury. From top to bottom on this franchise, people respect Perkins and listen to him.
It’s more than the benefit of his opinions and enjoyment of his personality; it appears Perkins may have the heart of a teacher.
“We don’t feel like we just want to be in the playoffs and win games,” Perkins explained. “We’re trying to raise a banner, or a few banners, here. We’re not just trying to get in the playoffs; we figure we can get in the playoffs. We proved we can play in the playoffs. Our goal is to try to win a championship, but we’re just going to take it one game at a time. We’ve got a whole lot of new guys and young guys, so we’ve got to make sure we bring them along and show them what we’re about around here, and make sure we hold ourselves accountable from day one.”
In addition to the new faces, the core players return for another run this season. The Thunder will be one of the more fortunate teams that won’t need to spend considerable time getting to know each other on the court. How important is that continuity to this team?
“Oh, it’s big,” answered Perkins. “I think the first thing is chemistry. I thought the biggest step that we made last year was guys sacrificing and just playing their role. I know it’s hard for – I always say the younger guys, but I’m only 27 myself – it’s hard for guys. You look at guys like Serge (Ibaka) and guys like James, believe it or not, those guys would love to make the All-Star game, I know that. But it’s about sacrifice. It’s all about winning. I told the guys even before we started our playoff run last year that I’d rather win the championship any day than make an All-Star game.”
Then he launched into another one of his unfiltered stories.
“Serge came back from this summer and he told me, he said, ‘Man, I felt like God.’ And we didn’t even win the Finals, just from being in the Finals. He’s like, ‘It’s unbelievable.’ I told him, ‘Winning a championship, nothing tops that.’ The biggest step that we made was just sacrificing, guys buying into their roles, buying into the system and that’s why we got that far in the payoffs,” Perkins said.
“I know guys would love to make the All-Star game and stuff like that,” he continued. “But that’s the good thing about our team, they’re not selfish and guys give up themselves even though guys would love to have 20-point games every night. When you win as a team, everybody gets a piece of the pie, and you don’t have anything to worry about on an individual (basis).”
The universal knock on the Thunder has been their youth and lack of experience. You can hardly point to inexperience anymore, but strangely enough, the team got even younger in the offseason. Nick Collison, at the ripe old age of 31, is the oldest player on the team.
“We lost good veteran leaders in Derek (Fisher), Nazr (Mohammed) and Royal (Ivey),” Perkins said. “We got younger, but a lot of guys that have been here – KD, Russ (Westbrook), James, Serge, Thabo (Sefolosha), we’re getting Eric back – we know what it takes to win. We proved to ourselves and proved to the world that we could take our game to another level. We’ve just got to continue to keep working and stay hungry.
“Stay hungry. At the end of the day, stay hungry,” reiterated Perkins.
His teammates have said it. His coaches have said it. On behalf of the media, we’ve said it. There’s no one quite like Kendrick Perkins.
You don’t want to miss one word.