Despite his athletic limitations, Kendrick Perkins knows the identity and strength of his Thunder team – a mobile juggernaut that can overwhelm with quickness, length and explosion.
But as a guy who has survived in this league because of brute strength and an underrated knowledge of the game, Perkins also knows its weakness.
“The biggest thing with our team is our mental,” Perkins said, bluntly, in his exit interview. “In my opinion, we have more than enough talent to win a championship this year. I thought we just fell short because of the mental things that we did wrong.”
It’s the minor, everyday details of the game that Perkins sees occasionally, but not consistently enough from the Thunder. The commitment to defense. The trust in teammates. The focus on every possession.
“That just comes from extra studying the game, watching film, going (to) get knowledge from other people,” Perkins said.
One area in specific he identified was turnovers. This season, the Thunder committed the fifth most per game (14.8) in the NBA. During the postseason, OKC committed the third most (15.1) out of 16 eligible teams, while Miami (10.9) and San Antonio (12.2) committed the least and fourth least.
“We gotta do a better job of valuing the ball,” Perkins said. “(In Game 6), turnovers cost us the game. I thought our defense, we got more than enough stops...We came down and had wasted offensive possessions.
“I mean turnovers that wasn’t even really forced. Just careless turnovers against San Antonio...Can’t beat a team in the Western Conference Finals like that.”
And that’s Perkins’ overall point. With the stockpiled talent and pure shot-making ability, the Thunder is capable of rattling off 55-plus wins on a consistent basis, annually advancing deep into the playoffs.
But that final hump, the conquering of championship level teams like the Spurs and Heat, will only come, Perkins says, if the Thunder adopts a similar kind of unselfish style and unwavering commitment to winning above all else.