All throughout the final half of last season, Kendrick Perkins repeated his desire to discard two things from his self-described disappointing 2010-11 campaign.
One was his left knee brace. The other was the right.
So when the Thunder center began packing to return to Oklahoma City just before the start of training camp, he gladly left those bulky black braces behind.
“When I was packing up my bags and stuff and getting ready to come to Oklahoma, I saw I had like three sets of knee braces,” Perkins said. “I was like, ‘You know what, I'm going to leave these right in the closet.' I didn't have any plans on taking them back.”
After a rash of recent knee injuries, this will be the first time in three seasons that Perkins will not be forced to wear bothersome braces. The big man with the menacing scowl hopes to not have to wear so much as a sleeve. Perkins is hoping it's the first step to getting him back on the path to regaining his reputation as the game's best low-post man defender.
The Thunder's success is largely dependant on it.
With Perkins, Oklahoma City turned into one of the better defensive teams in the league last season.
Before Perkins stepped on the court in mid-March, the Thunder was allowing 101.8 points per game.
In the team's final 17 games that Perkins played in, the Thunder's defensive numbers dropped to 97.9 points allowed while yielding a 43.7 field-goal percentage.
The Thunder also out-rebounded opponents by 4.8 rebounds per game.
A half-healthy Perkins — who has admitted he wasn't even near 60 percent — was enough to help carry the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals. A fully healthy Perkins is now determined to do more.
“He looks good, man,” said guard Royal Ivey. “He worked hard this summer. He got his weight down and he's no longer wearing the knee braces. He's out there making post moves and jumping and looking athletic. And that's really going to help us. Around the basket he's finishing and he's hitting the mid-range jumper. So he's looking real, real good. He's healthy now and that's a plus for us.”
Perkins entered the off-season aiming to lose 20 pounds. He lost 31, trimming down to 267 pounds from 298 and transforming his body into a leaner, more chiseled physique.
“I feel good,” Perkins said. “Just going through training camp these few days, it's been good. God has been good. I can't lie. I'm just trying to stay humble and keep working and maintain. I feel like I still got a ways to go. I'm still trying to get better as the season goes on.”