From Kevin Durant to coach Scott Brooks to general manager Sam Presti, the Oklahoma City Thunder all had one request of Kendrick Perkins: Be yourself. They'd plucked him off the Boston Celtics' roster in the middle of another championship chase, separated him from the only NBA team he'd ever known. And in those first few days when Perkins wasn't sure what to make of everything, the Thunder gave him the best assurance they could.
We don't want you for what you can become, they said. We want you for what you already are: big and bold, tough as granite, edges rough and sharp.
And so when someone stuck a microphone in front of Perk a few weeks ago and asked what he thought of the Los Angeles Lakers, he answered not as the Thunder would, but as only a born-and-bred Celtic could. The Lakers are "yesterday's news," he said. Phil Jackson's arrogant. Pau Gasol's soft.
"That was my opinion from the past battles that we had in the playoffs," Perkins said. "It wasn't nothing I said that was out of character or too crazy. I just spoke my mind.
"The thing is … you just got to back it up."
Perkins did that, too. He was speaking in his slow East Texas drawl late Sunday, sitting in front of his locker after helping deliver a 120-106 victory over the Lakers. He'd gone toe-to-toe with Kobe Bryant, wrapping him up in a screen then shoving him away after Bryant jawed at him. He'd pushed Andrew Bynum then stood his ground after Bynum threw the ball into his chest. He'd nearly caught Ron Artest with a flailing elbow after Artest had almost done the same to him.
This was new territory for the Thunder. Their last victory over the Lakers at Staples Center came more than five years ago, back when the franchise still resided in Seattle and Kevin Durant was playing out his senior season in high school. They lost all three games in L.A. in last season's first-round series with the Lakers, including a haunting Game 6 that came when Gasol put back Kobe's missed shot with a half-second left after the Thunder failed to box him out. Gasol and Bynum overwhelmed Oklahoma City's frontline for much of that series. Perkins is far less inclined to let that happen again.
Perkins talks, plays tough against Lakers
Yahoo! Sports | Apr 11