“He understands the game from a defensive standpoint,” Ray said. “He's a natural post man. He got to work for a guy who played center. He had some good training.”
Perkins' value on the court is difficult to detect by the untrained eye. Post defense is not an easily-measured statistic.
But any Thunder fan can see the difference in this team since Perkins' arrival. Fewer easy baskets by the opponents. More contested shots. Fewer points.
And Ray saw it coming. “I'm tickled to death,” Ray said of the trade that brought Perkins from Boston, “simply because it finally gives them a defensive presence on the inside. Might push the team another notch.”
Consider it done. The Thunder is 17-6 since the trade and 11-3 since Perkins started playing.
Ray offers two examples of Perkins' value, both with games in which Perkins didn't play.
* Game 6 of the Thunder-Laker playoff series, won by LA on Pau Gasol's putback at the buzzer. Perkins “never would have left Gasol to come out of the lane to block a jump shot. Europeans, they don't understand the importance of the paint. If that's Perkins, that never would have happened. He would have stayed home.”
* Game 7 of the Celtic-Laker NBA Finals, won by LA 83-79. Perkins did not play, having been injured the previous game. The Lakers survived with 23 offensive rebounds, including nine in the fourth quarter.
“We were up,” Ray said. “Had we been able to rebound the ball ... with Perkins on the floor, never would have happened. We would have won that game.
“I really thought that was the time they learned to appreciate Perkins, what he meant to the team ... he's special in my book.”
The feeling is mutual.
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.