North of the Red River, we love us some Kendrick Perkins.
We invite him to our kids' birthday parties, and give him great nicknames like Gran Torino and Sergeant Scowl, and go crazy when he shocks us by making two foul shots.
But south of the Red, and frankly anywhere past Oklahoma soil except the commonwealth of Massachusetts, Perk is not so esteemed.
He's Lex Luthor. Or Darth Vader. He's Beelzebub. As popular as a tax collector.
Perkins plays hard, screens hard and fouls hard. Too hard, sometimes. That profanity Mav coach Rick Carlisle uttered on national TV the other night? The “dirty bull…”? He wasn't talking about Daequan Cook.
Before Serge Ibaka clawed Dirk Nowitzki across the face and Irked Dirk responded with a forearm to the back, and before the Perk & Dirk waltz that threatened to go all cage fight, the tone was set by a couple of Gran Torino screens.
Screens is one word for it. Body block is another. Think bulldozer leveling a forest.
Perkins popped Dallas' Shawn Marion with a couple of picks that sent Marion's body hurling one direction, his head another. He looked like he was in the middle of one of those Hollywood saloon fights.
One looked legal. Both looked lethal.
Derek Fisher, who in a previous life played in Laker-Celtic death matches against Perkins, said he's been on the wrong side of a couple of Gran Torino picks.
“Anytime Kendrick sets a screen, you're on the wrong side,” Fisher said. “In practice, games, whatever.”
Delonte West has gone the other way. He and Perk once were basketball brothers, on Doc Rivers' sabertooth Celtic teams. Now West is a Mav in this Western Conference playoff series that resumes Thursday night.
“He's not intentionally trying to hurt nobody out there,” West said. “We're still good friends off the court. But we're enemies on the court.
“In Doc Rivers' system, he breeds tough grizzly bears. Doc knows how to bring the best out of you.”
That's the lab that hatched Sergeant Scowl. That Boston team a few years ago that had Kevin Garnett and Tony Allen and Perkins could win any alley fight and more than its share of guerrilla uprisings.
“We learned from a great coach that knows how to bring the best out of you on the defensive end,” West said. “I respect what he does.”
No way of knowing if most NBA players feel the same. If you play with or ever played with Perkins, you salute him. The others don't want to go waking up the grumpy old troll with accusations that he takes physicality too far.
“In all the battles teams that I've been on, in the Finals and those things, I never got the sense he was playing dirty,” Fisher said.
“He was just playing as hard as he could to help his team win. There was never a time I felt like he was out to injure. He was out to win. That's why I love playing with him.”
Among opposing fan bases, Perkins probably isn't too far removed from Metta World Chaos on the outrage scale.
But there's a huge difference in the two. Chaos blows a gasket and loses his cool, if not his faculties. Perkins is in control at all times.
“People think that sometimes he loses his mind,” said Thunder teammate Nick Collison, who for many years had occasional skirmishes with Perk, when he wore Celtic green.
“But he's really not. He went how many games when he needed that last T (technical foul, to be suspended)? He kind of always knows what he's doing.”
Metta World Chaos is madness. Perkins is method.
“There's a handful of guys in the league like that,” Collison said. “Physical guys, try to get under an opponent's skin. The smart ones are the guys like Perk who try to do it as an advantage.”
Does it work? Sometimes. Doesn't really work much on Nowitzki, who has more alley cat in him than he lets on. Works well on a shaky spirit like the Lakers' Andrew Bynum.
Now, don't get the wrong idea. Perkins is trying to make basketball plays, too. He's trying to set Kevin Durant free when sending Marion flying into the 15th row. But Gran Torino also is trying to send a message.
Not just to the enemy, but to his comrades, too.
“You always knew he was going to play hard and bring an intensity and a passion to the game every time he stepped on the court,” Fisher said. “That‘s why he's been a champion before.
“That's what he's doing for our team right now. He's playing hard. He's playing with passion. He's holding his teammates accountable. Those are all a testament to his character and his integrity of who he is as a person, outside of a basketball player.”
Fisher has experienced Perkins on both sides. Mortal enemies. Now mortal friends.
“We're fortunate to have him on our side,” Fisher said, perhaps thinking of Shawn Marion's aching body. “I'm happy to be a teammate instead of having to play against him.”
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at