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Commentary: Kendrick Perkins haters, your wish has come true

JENNI CARLSON — You may not have wished ill will on Kendrick Perkins, but you more than likely wondered why the Thunder wouldn’t amnesty him. Well, you’ve gotten your wish...kind of. Perkins is out for six weeks and you, and the Thunder, get to see what life is like without him.
by Jenni Carlson Published: February 25, 2014

Perk haters, rejoice.

Kendrick Perkins is out of the starting lineup, Steven Adams is in, and your wish has come true.

Life without Perk gets a test run starting now.

Not to say that anyone wished ill on Perk. The Thunder big man suffered a groin injury last week against the Heat, and while we knew it was bad after he missed the Clippers game, we found out Tuesday that it was pretty serious. He had a medical procedure on the groin and is expected to be sidelined about six weeks.

That amounts to about 20 games. Not a huge sample size, but definitely the most extended period the Thunder has been without Perk since he arrived in Oklahoma City three years ago.

About five minutes after he got to town, some Thunder fans wanted him gone.

It doesn’t make sense, of course, since Perk’s presence in the paint on the defensive end transformed the Thunder into a serious contender. Can’t go and win a playoff series in the Western Conference, much less make a run at an NBA title, if opponents think they can drive the lane and get to the basket and no one will do anything about it.

Before Perk, the Thunder had the Pillsbury Doughboy defense. Soft in the middle.

With Perk, you drive the lane and go to the basket at your own peril. He brought not only The Scowl but also the understanding. He directs the rest of players on the defensive end. He communicates adjustments and switches.

“He anchors our defense,” Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook said.

Perk has been as important to the Thunder’s defense as Kevin Durant has been to the Thunder’s offense.

New technologies have helped quantify Perk’s importance. The NBA’s SportVu cameras positioned in every arena for the first time this season are spitting out tons of interesting stats. Among other things, they tell us that opponents’ field goal percentage at the rim this season is 40.2 percent against Perk, which is better than Roy Hibbert or Tiago Splitter or Robin Lopez or Joakim Noah or a bunch of other guys who are seen as good defenders.

Even with that, legions of Thunder fans watch him on the offensive end, dribbling off his leg and missing chippies and averaging 3.4 points a game, and cry “Amnesty Perk!” at every opportunity.

They’re misguided about all of that, but that doesn’t change the fact that Adams is the future for the Thunder. Perk is 29, and some day, he will be traded or amnestied or let go. Adams is 20, and some day, he will be the main man in the middle.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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