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NBA PM: Embracing The “Villain” Role
Posted By Bill Ingram On February 1, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In All,NBA | No Comments
If you look back over the history of the NBA, nearly every championship-caliber team had at least one “bad guy.” They had someone who took the hard hits, put opponents on their backs at just the right time and drew the ire of the opposing fans for their hard, borderline dirty play. Some names that immediately come to mind are Gary Payton, Charles Oakley, Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn, just to name a few. These were the guys who rolled up their sleeves and did the dirty work.
In today’s NBA, this is not quite as true as it once was, due largely to significant rule changes that make real defense hard to get away with. Still, there are a few guys who still revel in the role of the bad guy, and one of those players is Oklahoma City Thunder star Kendrick Perkins.
“I love it,” Perkins tells HOOPSWORLD. “Coming into the opposite building, they’re not supposed to like me. That’s not my job, so as long as I’m good with my team and my coaches and what we do at home, I’m straight with all the boos and stuff on the road. So I don’t mind instigating a little bit.”
That doesn’t mean Perkins sees himself as the leader. Like most of the NBA’s instigators, Perkins defers to better players when it comes to leading the team. He has been particularly impressed with the way Kevin Durant, already the NBA’s best scorer, has stepped up his defensive game.
“Absolutely. He’s been phenomenal,” says Perkins. “Just the way he’s been carrying himself, the way he’s been in the locker room outside of basketball, he’s been a true leader. Sometimes we have to get on KD about not shooting enough. He’s a special talent; probably one of the best scorers you’ll probably ever watch or see playing the game, seriously.”
Perkins may be the Thunder’s self-proclaimed instigator, but he sees a surprising newcomer as the team’s assassin.
“Quietly he has been phenomenal,” Perkins says of Kevin Martin, who was acquired early in the season in a trade that sent sixth-man James Harden to the Houston Rockets. “He’s the silent assassin. He comes in, does his job, not making too much noise. You look up and he’s got sixteen, eighteen points, which is what we need. … He’s embraced his opportunity. He’s been putting up numbers right now for a lot of non-contenders or playoff teams, so he said he was tired of doing it, so he’s sacrificing. And I think we’re all taking a little backseat just for winning and it’s fun.”
After winning a championship with the Boston Celtics and making it back to the Finals with the Thunder last season, Perkins has a clear perspective to lend as he helps his young teammates push for their first rings.
“It’s never over,” says Perkins. “You just have to keep grinding, and just seize your opportunity and try to seize the moment.”
For Kendrick Perkins, that often means being the one who hears boos in opposing arenas from fans who don’t appreciate his hard play, and that’s just fine with him.
Billy Hunter Out?
NBA Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter has been placed on paid leave of absence in the wake of findings by the law firm of firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP which indicate that Hunter is guilty of questionable business practices in his role as the head of the players’ union. ESPN’s Marc Stein reports:
The report last month found no evidence of illegal use of union funds, but revealed that Hunter withheld knowledge that his contract was never properly approved, used poor judgment with his hiring practices and spent improperly on travel and gifts.
The NBPA also will hire outside lawyers to assist it leading into a pivotal set of meetings scheduled for All-Star Weekend in Houston later this month and will consider moving meetings to a different date on the calendar to “ensure that all players will have the best chance to attend without conflict.”
Hunter has headed the union since 1996. The review was sought in part by [union president Derek] Fisher, who clashed with Hunter during and after the NBA lockout that lasted from July-November 2011.
“Unfortunately, it appears that union management has lost sight of the NBPA’s only task, to serve the best interests of their membership. This is the reason I called for a review almost a year ago,” Fisher said in a statement. “The findings of that review confirm this unfortunate truth and we must now move forward as players. Immediate change is necessary and I, along with the committee members, are committed to driving the process as difficult as it may be.”
The union either employed or worked with many people who had ties to Hunter, who hired his daughter and nephew, permitted a daughter-in-law to remain on staff, and spent more than $80,000 of union funds to evaluate an investment in a banking firm that employed his son.
“No matter the explanation, when viewed collectively, his choices created the appearance that he operated the union in part for the benefit of his family and friends,” the report said.
“The appearance of favoritism has damaged the union. Mr. Hunter’s pattern of involving friends and family in union business contributed to a deep rift among the NBPA staff.”
Hunter fired his daughter and daughter-in-law less than two weeks after the report came out.
The report also found that Hunter also spent more than $100,000 of union funds to purchase gifts for executive committee members, including a $22,000 watch for Fisher in June 2010, and that he made “questionable choices” when charging travel expenses to the NBPA.
There has long been speculation that Derek Fisher might replace Hunter, but it’s more likely the NBPA will look for a fresh voice to fill that seat. There is a strong sentiment among the players that a bigger name player like, perhaps, Chris Paul, could be the next president now that Fisher is no longer a player.
Good News, Bad News for Magic
The Orlando Magic suffered a blow when they learned that Glen “Big Baby” Davis will miss the next eight-to-twelve weeks following foot surgery, but the sting of that news was eased somewhat when Al Harrington said he is almost ready to make his season debut following arthroscopic knee surgery and issues with a staph infection.
“I’ve only had a chance to go through two hard practices where I went full speed and I feel good. I feel like I’m really close now,” Harrington told NBA.com’s John Denton. “I’m just going to keep working and rehabbing. I feel like there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not exactly sure when I’ll get to go out there, but I feel like it should be soon.”
The difficult part for Harrington has been dealing with the staph infection, which is far less predictable than a standard injury.
“There’s really no protocol for this,” Harrington said. “You know when you have an ACL (tear) or a back (surgery) that it’s eight weeks or whatever. But when you are dealing with an infection it just depends on how your body responds and how your bone responds. It’s definitely the toughest one I’ve been through, for sure.”
The Magic have been much better this season than many expected, looking like a great young core of guys to build with and around. The chemistry on the court is also evident off the court, and Harrington has enjoyed being more a part of that as he prepares to return.
“I finally feel like I’m part of it. It’s always good to get on the road and have that team camaraderie,” Harrington said. “I always feel like my team is my extended family and when I wasn’t around, it was weird. But now with these guys they are a lot of great guys. We’ve been doing a lot of dinners and building some great relationships.”
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