Perk slowly walked out to center court. He raised his right arm. He turned toward every corner of the arena in thanks as the cheers grew to a crescendo.
“That was unbelievable,” Perkins said. “I really appreciate it. I say this time and time again. I really appreciate the whole city of Boston. The whole Celtics organization, just the way that they embrace me time and time again…They didn't have to do it. I'm not taking it for granted.”
Perkins then admitted he's still a Celtic at heart.
“It ain't like something that you can just let go,” Perkins said. “I'm greatly appreciative of being in Oklahoma. I love Oklahoma. But just being here for eight years and winning a championship, it's hard to replace it…It still has a special place in my heart.”
Perkins scored seven points with five rebounds and one blocked shot in 28 minutes. His mind, however, was elsewhere.
“Mentally, I was just out of it,” Perkins confessed.
Four minutes, 35 seconds in, though, Perkins proved where his loyalties lie. When Rajon Rondo got loose on a fast break and all that stood between the Celtics point guard and a layup was Perkins — a scenario he was asked about at the Thunder's morning shoot-around — the Thunder's new paint protector clothes-lined his best friend and prevented an easy deuce.
“He was coming at me full speed, and I was really just trying to wrap him up but he was coming so fast,” Perkins said. “I wasn't trying to do nothing crazy to him. I just couldn't let him score on us.”
It's that attitude that the Celtics faithful grew to love over seven-plus seasons. And it's one they assure Oklahoma City fans will come to adore if they don't already.
“He was the heart and soul of this team,” Tsouros said.