ORLANDO, Fla. — The best big man in the NBA could only marvel at how much a one-time rival has made over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“They're up there now,” said Orlando center Dwight Howard on Friday when asked about the Thunder's acquisition of Kendrick Perkins. “They have a legitimate chance of winning a title.”
On Thursday, the Thunder acquired Perkins and Nate Robinson from the Celtics in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Howard, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, said Perkins could be the Thunder's missing link.
“I think the one thing that Oklahoma needed was a guy in the paint on the defensive end,” Howard said. “They have Ibaka. But then you add somebody like Kendrick, it's going to make it very tough with all the length.”
Howard and Perkins locked horns in each of the last two postseasons, with Howard's Magic winning in seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2009 before Perkins' Celtics defeated Orlando in six games in the Conference Finals last year.
Perkins earned a reputation in those series as one of the few centers in the league who can defend Howard one-on-one. With Perkins in the mix, as well as Nazr Mohammed coming over via a separate deal with Charlotte, Howard said the Thunder now has ample size up front and scoring on the perimeter to compete with the league's best.
“They're going to be very tough,” Howard said. “It's good to have some veteran leadership and they have that now. So they're a legit team.
“They were already a tough team. And they just got better.”