Less Equals More For Perkins
Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins pushed himself in vigorous offseason workouts leading up to this season and the slimmer big man says he’s ready to take on some of the best players in the NBA – namely NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki.
While many NBA players were maxing and relaxing over the summer, Perkins put himself through some strenuous activities that have resulted in the Thunder big man dropping over 30 pounds from last season. With the bevy of overweight and out of shape professional athletes reporting to their respective teams to start the season, it’s refreshing to see an athlete like Perkins – who was already a solid NBA player – work that much harder to improve his game.
The noticeably leaner Perkins believes this will help him contribute even more in Oklahoma City’s up-tempo play style.
“It helps a lot,” Perkins said of his physical transformation. “Guys have done a great job of getting their rest… [Our team has] been really taking care of themselves and guys have been policing themselves in a great way.”
One of the youngest teams in the league, the Thunder are expected to benefit the most from the streamlined, shortened schedule this year and they haven’t disappointed through the first six games of the 2011-2012 regular season. The Thunder are off to a Western Conference-best 5-1 start with hard fought victories over the Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks.
Oklahoma City is hanging its hopes that the youthful, talented roster they feature will propel them to another lengthy playoff run, and Perkins is expected to be an integral piece of the puzzle.
The need for a dominant defensive big man is especially pertinent for matchups against the top dogs in the Western Conference, namely the team that bumped Oklahoma City from last season’s Western Conference Finals: the eventual champion Mavericks.
In the first meeting between the Thunder and Mavericks this season, Perkins came up huge late, stripping Mavs’ big man Dirk Nowitzki at the top of the key with 3:19 left. This led to a game-changing Russell Westbrook fast break slam with an and-one as Oklahoma City went on to win the contest 104-102 for its fourth victory in the span of five nights.
Thunder forward Serge Ibaka will likely get the lion’s share of time opposite Dirk on the defensive end, but Perkins has slimmed down enough to be able to guard Nowitzki in spurts down the stretch.
“I asked to get put on Dirk,” Perkins said of the first meeting against Dallas. “I just wanted to see what it was about. Sometimes you’ve just got to let it all hang out and do what you got to do.”
Last night, Perkins started the game with the defensive assignment on Dirk and even chased Nowitzki out on the perimeter late in the contest. While Dallas handed the Thunder its first loss of the season with a 100-87 victory, and Nowitzki thrived to the tune of 26 points on 10 of 16 shooting, the future is bright going forward for OKC and Perkins gave his thoughts on trying to guard Nowitzki.
“Well I think the biggest thing that a lot of guys get caught up, and I’m not talking about Serge [Ibaka] or Nick [Collison], I’m just saying in general around the league is some guys in the league still get star struck and I’m not one of them,” Perkins told HOOPSWORLD. “I don’t really care who I’m guarding. At the end of the day I’m looking at them as, you lace up your shoes like I lace up mine. That’s how I go about it.”
While some NBA players are wary of all the back-to-backs and back-to-back-to-backs this shortened season will feature, Perkins relishes the opportunity to get out there and play the game of basketball.
“I’d rather be playing every day than having practice,” Perkins bristled.
With a team that’s expected to go deep into the postseason, the evolution of Perkins is key to Oklahoma City’s title hopes going forward. Judging by his preparation coming into the season, Perkins isn’t taking that fact lightly and that’s a great sign for the future of this Thunder squad.