WASHINGTON — He was supposed to supply the little things, all the finer points of the game that slip past the naked eye but always make a significant imprint on the final scoreboard.
But in his first game as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, center Kendrick Perkins made his presence felt, standing out for that which he did both big and small in the Thunder's 116-89 rout of Washington on Monday night.
Ask three different teammates what impressed them the most about Perkins and you'd get three different answers, all glowing reviews ranging from his court smarts to his communications skills.
“It's just one game,” said Thunder forward Nick Collison. “But I think he's really going to help us. He looked really good tonight.”
Ask the man himself how he fared and the space-eating, defensive-stopper shows little signs of satisfaction.
“I felt good; a little rusty in some spots,” Perkins said. “But it felt good to be out there with the guys and be able to contribute in a positive way … I think this was a good first game for me. I just want to improve.”
In 20 minutes, Perkins scored six points with a team-high nine rebounds along with two assists. His first field-goal in Thunder blue, of course, came as a clean-up man doing the dirty work, as he gathered a missed runner by Kevin Durant before converting a putback layup with 7:46 remaining in the first quarter.
At the other end, Perkins showed no lingering effects from the sprained MCL in his left knee that forced him to miss nine games after the Thunder acquired him in a four-player trade with Boston at the Feb. 24 trading deadline. He moved laterally without laboring defensively on pick-and-rolls. He stood his ground in the low post, effectively stymieing Wizards center JaVale McGee or funneling him into a second defender or a tougher shot.
“We didn't have to leave our men on the wings to go help him in the post on the defensive end,” said Durant. “We could stay home on 3-point shooters. That's one thing we had a problem with, (opponent) 3-point shooting. He made it easier for us by just holding his man up and forcing them into Serge (Ibaka) for the blocks. He's a strong force for us down there on the defensive end.”
The Wizards went 0-for-9 from the 3-point line. Ibaka tied his career-high with eight blocks. Perkins played a part in both.
“He's got a really good feel for how to play defense,” Collison said. “He was in a good system in Boston. They do a lot of things similar to what we try to do. There's not a lot of guys that are that big and talented and also that smart.
“Defensively, he understands help and timing. A couple of times on pick-and-rolls, he really did the correct thing on coverages. And inside, he's just a big body. He's physical. He can play guys one-on-one a little more than the rest of our guys. That's a big help for us.”
Perkins also validated his reputation as a good communicator. Whether he called out screens or barked out assignments, Perkins spent all night pointing out things to his teammates. Perkins said the nine games he watched, coupled with countless hours of studying the team's playbook and his teammates' tendencies, prepared him to take on an immediate leadership role.
“I just think as much time as we can get to play with each other before the playoffs it will be very helpful,” Perkins said.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Perkins will not have a restriction on his minutes. Perkins played only 20 minutes Monday in part because the Thunder led by 25 after three quarters. No Thunder starter played in the final period. Perkins, though, said he was surprised at how good his conditioning was.
“It was exactly what we expected,” Brooks said of Perkins' debut. “The guy just knows how to play.”