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Berry Tramel: Kendrick Perkins brings more to Thunder than tough image

by Berry Tramel Modified: May 12, 2011 at 8:14 pm •  Published: May 12, 2011

Kendrick Perkins had a wish.

Thunder wins the West. Celtics win the East. Oklahoma City-Boston for all of David Stern's marbles.

“I was wishing we could both end up in the (NBA) Finals and meet up, or something crazy like that,” Perkins said.

The Celtics, the team of his past. The Thunder, the team of his present and future.

A wish that will go unmet. On the night Perkins' Thunder took control of their Western Conference semifinal against Memphis, the Celtics went down. Eliminated by the Miami Bound Machine in five games.

In New England, they're writing Celtic obituaries. The end of an era. No more championship runs for the core of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

A core that counted Perkins as its soul until the stunning February trade that brought a tear to Perk's eye and anguish to Celtic fans, who appreciated the Terrible Scowl for his defense and toughness. The Celtics won one NBA title with Big Perk manning the post, and Boston faithful from Roxbury bartenders to Doc Rivers will swear the Celts would have won another had Perkins not been injured in Game 6 of the 2010 Finals against the Lakers.

Perkins' tears dried quickly. He talks passionately about being a Thunder. But he's still a little wistful that his old pals fell.

Perk is only 26 but spent eight years in Boston, four with the Big Three era.

“I'd be lying if I was telling you I was disconnected,” Perkins said. “We knew everything about each other. I hated to see them go down like this.”

Scotty Brooks doesn't begrudge such empathy, even in the dog-eat-dog NBA playoffs. It's OK with the Thunder coach if Perkins, the baddest-looking man in the league, has a soft spot for the Celtics.

“If he did not have it, you would question his character,” Brooks said. “He has so many great experiences and memories and tough memories with that group of guys. That's natural. You would hope that's how he felt.

“But we like him here.”

Never fear, OKC. Perkins likes it here.

“Oklahoma City, they embraced me with open arms,” Perkins said. “They embraced me while I was injured. And I'm still not 100 percent. They've still got a lot of faith in me.

“I didn't know what to expect. But it's been fun. It's been wonderful.”

It's funny to hear a man like Perkins, who looks so mean and talks so menacing, to use words like wonderful. But he backed up his words when agreeing to a four-year contract extension just a few days after arriving.

The ballplayer weaned on Celtic fundamentals and Celtic tradition and Celtic pride, liked what he found on the Oklahoma plains.

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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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