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Impressions Of The New Kids

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm •  Published: February 26, 2011

Thoughts and observations from what felt like the first day of school at Saturday’s practice.

  • The first thing I saw today upon entering the doors of the practice facility’s gymnasium was Kendrick Perkins to my right doing some sort of lat pull-downs with the strength and conditioning coach. My first thought: he even makes lifting look intimidating.
  • Ten seconds later, after walking around the corner, I spotted Nate Robinson paired up with Eric Maynor for the team’s customary session-ending free throw game. The two already looked like they had incredible chemistry. In fact, Russell Westbrook, Daequan Cook and James Harden joined the two moments later at another basket and horsed around like Robinson was a teammate all season.
  • While horsing around, Cook and Harden were trying to do some acrobatic dunks. Bouncing lob pass to themselves. Going between the legs. Stuff like that. I sat there waiting for Nate to clear out everybody and show ‘em how it’s done. Didn’t happen.
  • If you’ve grown tired of hearing and reading the same quotes from Thunder players about the process and getting better every day, you’ll love the newcomers. This trio is a breath of fresh air. These guys speak their minds…I’m setting the over/under at two days before someone gets a hold of them and tries to install a filter. Good luck with Robinson.
  • The biggest news of the day revolved around two things concerning Perkins. The first is he will miss two to three weeks with a sprained left knee. But that’s no big deal. He’ll be back soon enough, and the goal is to have him for the long haul, not rush him to play against the Lakers. More importantly, Perkins provided his first assurance that he wants to be here. He said he’s happy to be here and hopes things workout in negotiations on an extension this summer. While that doesn’t remove the risk of not re-signing the soon-to-be restricted free agent, it certainly adds a little more comfort to the situation.
  • Here’s what Perk said about the contract matter.

I hope I can be here. I wanna be here. I couldn’t find a better situation for myself. I really want to be here. It’s just a great organization. Just learning in a day, just being around is overwhelming. So I do wanna be here. Hopefully we can work something out. They are the first option, the first team on my plate. I know free agency’s coming up or whatever it may be. I just know Oklahoma City is my first option.”

  • Very interesting that Perk also said he had interest in the Thunder last year. “I actually talked to my agent about Oklahoma City last year,” Perkins said. “I knew my contract was coming to an end. So I asked him. I was like, ‘Would you think they’d be interested because I feel like I could come in and help. And God works in mysterious ways. I’m happy to be here.”
  • My first impression of Perkins. He’s a pretty nice guy. On television he comes off as a big ol’ meany. But he showed the media his personality today. And us media types fell for him from the moment he stepped behind a waiting row of cameras and facetiously asked, ‘Ya’ll waiting on me?’
  • Perk had an entertaining story about his transition, one that told a small tale of how the little things matter in mid-season trades. “I walked in today. I didn’t have a pair of shoes so I had my old Celtics shoes,” he said. “They were like, ‘Man, you got to get that out of here.’ So I threw them right in the trash. They tried to pass me a little green medicine ball today. I said I don’t want to see nothing green. Boston is the last thing on my mind now.”
  • Perk also supplied the quote of the day when talking about how he is trying to build chemistry with his new teammates, a process that has to take place in the locker room since he’s not currently on the court. “I’m showing them that I’m not this mean guy that everybody thinks I am,” Perkins said. “But I wouldn’t call myself a soft teddy bear because it might mess up my image.”
  • I’m already getting a lot of questions about where Robinson fits in. It sounds like he doesn’t. Thunder coach Scott Brooks likes his current rotation, and even though Robinson is arguably the best scorer off the bench he could be reduced to spot duty. Said Brooks: “There might be some times and some opportunities where the game needs what Nate brings. Initially, it’s going to be a feel thing; see how the game is going, see how the flow is going…But he’s a tough kid that plays hard and he plays with his heart. I love him. I love what he brings.”
  • Our man Berry Tramel dug deeper about Brooks’ rotation, posing the question about the sudden surplus of defensive players in the starting unit as opposed to the previous offensive plethora. Brooks said the projected new look doesn’t warrant a change. “It gives us another way to play,” Brooks said. “And I think in order to be a good team you have to play different ways. You have to be able to play small because a lot of teams are playing small…We have the ability to go small, go big, go defensive, go offensive. Now that James and D.C. are shooting the ball like they’re capable of and scoring, we can mix it up during a game, during a quarter and we can make different changes as the course of the game tells is to do.”
  • I’d expect to see Nazr Mohammed play between 15 and 18 minutes tomorrow against the Lakers. Brooks said he’ll keep the schemes simple while Mohammed’s in there.
  • Brooks wouldn’t say it, but the writing is on the wall. Mohammed’s arrival means Cole Aldrich goes back to being buried on the bench. Maybe even the D-League. I asked Brooks whether Mohammed gets the backup minutes at center and was hit with the old “we’ll see.”
  • This is Mohammed’s sixth time being traded, the fifth time he’s been dealt in mid-season. Said Mohammed: “For me, it’s like deja vu.”
  • Mohammed is wearing No. 8 in honor of former Kentucky teammate Antoine Walker.
  • Mohammed, 33, joked about having to get in better shape now that he’s going to have to keep up with a young running team. Worth noting that Mohammed has taken up pilates and yoga to try to maintain his body. Anything, he says, to get an edge. Mohammed also said it shouldn’t take him long to adjust to the Thunder’s system because a lot of it is similar to what he did with the Spurs.
  • Robinson loves Sonic. Our man John Rohde has the scoop in Sunday’s paper. A preview: “I’m going to be at Sonic a lot. I might have to just invest in one sooner or later,” Robinson said.
  • All in all, a good day.

-DM-

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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