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OKC Thunder: Kendrick Perkins loved in OKC ... but not so much elsewhere

Kendrick Perkins plays hard, screens hard and fouls hard. That hasn't made him a lot of fans outside of the teams he's played for, but there is a method to his madness.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 2, 2012

North of the Red River, we love us some Kendrick Perkins.

We invite him to our kids' birthday parties, and give him great nicknames like Gran Torino and Sergeant Scowl, and go crazy when he shocks us by making two foul shots.

But south of the Red, and frankly anywhere past Oklahoma soil except the commonwealth of Massachusetts, Perk is not so esteemed.

He's Lex Luthor. Or Darth Vader. He's Beelzebub. As popular as a tax collector.

Perkins plays hard, screens hard and fouls hard. Too hard, sometimes. That profanity Mav coach Rick Carlisle uttered on national TV the other night? The “dirty bull…”? He wasn't talking about Daequan Cook.

Before Serge Ibaka clawed Dirk Nowitzki across the face and Irked Dirk responded with a forearm to the back, and before the Perk & Dirk waltz that threatened to go all cage fight, the tone was set by a couple of Gran Torino screens.

Screens is one word for it. Body block is another. Think bulldozer leveling a forest.

Perkins popped Dallas' Shawn Marion with a couple of picks that sent Marion's body hurling one direction, his head another. He looked like he was in the middle of one of those Hollywood saloon fights.

One looked legal. Both looked lethal.

Derek Fisher, who in a previous life played in Laker-Celtic death matches against Perkins, said he's been on the wrong side of a couple of Gran Torino picks.

“Anytime Kendrick sets a screen, you're on the wrong side,” Fisher said. “In practice, games, whatever.”

Delonte West has gone the other way. He and Perk once were basketball brothers, on Doc Rivers' sabertooth Celtic teams. Now West is a Mav in this Western Conference playoff series that resumes Thursday night.

“He's not intentionally trying to hurt nobody out there,” West said. “We're still good friends off the court. But we're enemies on the court.

“In Doc Rivers' system, he breeds tough grizzly bears. Doc knows how to bring the best out of you.”

That's the lab that hatched Sergeant Scowl. That Boston team a few years ago that had Kevin Garnett and Tony Allen and Perkins could win any alley fight and more than its share of guerrilla uprisings.

“We learned from a great coach that knows how to bring the best out of you on the defensive end,” West said. “I respect what he does.”

No way of knowing if most NBA players feel the same. If you play with or ever played with Perkins, you salute him. The others don't want to go waking up the grumpy old troll with accusations that he takes physicality too far.

“In all the battles teams that I've been on, in the Finals and those things, I never got the sense he was playing dirty,” Fisher said.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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