Scott Brooks on Friday night finally did what so many have seemed to want him to do for so long. He benched Kendrick Perkins. When the decision worked, and the Thunder went on to a series-clinching win in Game 6 over the Houston Rockets, those recognizable three syllables once again resurfaced. Amnesty. The most steadfast critics of Perkins have no problem tossing around that word, which, really, is nothing more than a fancy way of saying a team is giving a player his walking papers. All throughout last summer's uncertainty over whether James Harden would be re-signed, Perkins detractors felt the Thunder should amnesty its starting center. Removing his salary, they assumed, would enable the Thunder to keep Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant together. But when Harden was traded, many thought — and still think — Perkins' contract cost the team its one-time sensational sixth man. To those critics, Game 6 against the Rockets served as proof that the Thunder is just fine without Perkins. But now comes Round 2 and what is widely believed to be a heavyweight bout between the Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies. It's a matchup made for Perkins, and one in which the Thunder will rely on its big man to make a big impact. “This series was hard for him,” Brooks said of Perkins against the run-and-gun Rockets. “But his commitment to still cheer his teammates in the second half tells you what he's all about. “Playing Memphis, he's going to get every minute that he deserves.” That's probably for the best. Perkins is among the best low-post defenders in basketball, and with the Grizzlies trotting out a terrific inside tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, the Thunder now needs what Perkins does best to have any shot of surviving.
Kendrick Perkins' critics return, but Round 2 is a matchup made for him
The Oklahoman | May 5