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.
“It's been a blessing since I've been here, to be on the court with Kevin (Durant) and Russell (Westbrook),” Perkins said.
“Those guys put in a lot of work. I didn't know they put in such work. They handle adversity great. Anything you throw at 'em, they handle it great.”
Perkins exasperates a good many Thunder fan. Oklahoma City is not quite the sophisticated basketball culture that Perk left in Boston. Little harder to impress people here with the little things. Screens. Post defense. Attitude.
So when Perkins flubs a layup or misses two foul shots, his value is immediately questioned.
But the Thunder, like Boston players and fans alike, know what they have. The Boomers listen to Gran Torino, the big guy who showed up and immediately changed the team's attitude, just with his presence. Immediately turned the Thunder back into a defensive-minded team, after almost four months of trying to outscore foes.
“Give him the credit,” Brooks said, “and give our guys the credit, because they've opened up with him and allowed him to speak up and they listen. Guys understand that we have to have everybody chipping in some way to help us win.”
When the Thunder laid an egg in Game 1 of this Memphis series, Perkins called a players-only dinner to talk about what went wrong. Game 2, the Thunder was 100 times tougher, and Zach Randolph rues that dinner.
Wednesday night, after the Thunder's 99-72 rout of Memphis, Perkins expressed displeasure with his team down the stretch. He didn't go into details. Maybe it was Nate Robinson's dribbling antics. Maybe it was several 3-point shots in the final minutes. Maybe it was the exuberant cheering from the bench in a 20-point blowout.
Whatever, Perk didn't like it and said so.
“We have to end the game with better class than that,” Perkins said. “That's too disrespectful in my eyes. That's not what the Thunder are about. I think we were too flashy.”
I didn't have a problem with any of it except Robinson's Globetrotter act. But I'm also going to go along with whatever Perk says.
Sign me up for a Thunder-Boston Finals in the near future. And sign me up for liking it that Kendrick Perkins likes it in Oklahoma City.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.