Kendrick Perkins met his goal.
The Oklahoma City Thunder center wanted to come into training camp at 275 pounds.
He's now 267.
Asked what he was at the end of the playoffs, Perkins didn't hesitate.
“About 398,” he said.
“Nah, I'm just playing. I mean 298.”
The 30-pounds-lighter Perkins will make his 2011-12 debut Sunday at Dallas in the team's preseason opener. Last season, after he arrived from Boston in a midseason trade, not only was Perkins not at his ideal weight, but he also was not healthy.
His right knee was still recovering from 2010 arthroscopic surgery for ligament reconstruction and meniscus repair. His left knee still wasn't right after he sustained a sprained MCL in late February. As a result, his athleticism vanished and his rhythm was out of whack. Some things that once came effortlessly for Perkins, such as dunking and blocking shots, no longer defined his game.
The Thunder knew it last year but now acknowledge that Perkins willingly played and put himself in a position other players perhaps would not have. Perkins had been medically cleared and his knees were structurally sound. But his timing was nowhere near normal.
“I just was excited to get back on the court,” Perkins explained when asked why he pushed himself. “I didn't care how, I just wanted to get back on the court and show my new team and my new teammates and the coaching staff that I'm in. I knew I wasn't close to 60 percent. But I just wanted to be out there.”
Now, Perkins wants to show the same people what he can really do. There are tons of nonbelievers, too. Critics cropped up the moment the trade came out. The scrutiny only intensified throughout the playoffs. Perkins, some said, was not a good fit on the up-and-coming Thunder. Others labeled him an injury-prone has-been.
But general manager Sam Presti said from the start that Perkins' addition was about the long term, not immediate gains. With a clean bill of health, the time has come for Perkins to prove his worth.
“I just worked hard this summer,” Perkins said. “I was disappointed in myself last year in the playoffs. I don't like to blame anything on injuries, but at the same time I was out there so I should have made a difference. I just wanted to come back healthy and give it a shot with these young guys and the rest of the team and the whole city; just to show what I can do and be more productive.”
Perkins averaged 5.1 points and 7.9 rebounds in 17 games last year. Somehow, he summoned the strength to supply the Thunder 25.2 minutes a night. But Perkins clearly wasn't himself.
“I give Perk a lot of credit,” Brooks said. “He was rusty. He didn't touch a basketball for eight months. But he came out. Not a lot of athletes will do that, put themselves in a position to be on the floor not at their best. But he gave us things that we needed.”
If 50 percent of Perkins could help the Thunder reach the Western Conference Finals, what can a 100 percent Perkins now do?
“We'll see,” Perkins said. “Obviously, when you get lighter you move quicker, you jump higher…blocking more shots, finishing at the rim and just being able to slide and do what I normally do.
“Before I got hurt, I was one of those guys who was able to switch out on guards and guard them at the perimeter on the defensive end without help. So I was just trying to get back to those days and even better.”
Perkins spent most of his time in Texas during the lockout. He kept somewhat of a low profile, but with the help of a strength and conditioning coach and a dietitian, he transformed his body into a slimmer, more chiseled physique.
His routine consisted of weights and cardio every morning from 9 to noon. At night, he would work on his shooting and play pickup ball. He also ate better.
“I was used to eating whatever I wanted. So I had to change up my diet a little bit,” Perkins said. “It was a lot of things that was healthy on the menu that I actually liked.”
It all made a huge difference.
“I feel a ton better,” Perkins said.