Kendrick Perkins was reminded Thursday that this Thunder season isn’t the first time an injury potentially cost him an NBA championship. In 2010, Perkins suffered torn knee ligaments in the first quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Finals. His Celtics led the Lakers three games to two, but LA won Game 6, then rallied to win Game 7.
Boston fans still point out that the starting lineup of the great 2008 title team – Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Perk – never was defeated.
Now with Russell Westbrook lost to injury and the Thunder eliminated by Memphis in the Western Conference semifinals, Perkins was asked about twice suffering through injury-caused disappointments in the playoffs.
“Nah, actually this is my third time,” Perkins said.
In 2009, Garnett missed the entire playoffs with injury. Those Celtics were 62-20 and the No. 2 seed in the East. But Boston wasn’t the same without Garnett. The Celtics survived a seven-game series against the Bulls, one of the best playoff series in NBA history, then were knocked out in seven games by the Dwight Howard Magic.
“We didn’t have KG when I was in Boston” in 2009, Perkins said. “Then I didn’t play Game 7 (in 2010), so I don’t know how that would have went but the odds was kind of in our favor. And then this with Russ. So things happen. You just got to be better prepared, I guess. You can’t take guys for granted.”
It’s really not about taking guys or things for granted. When a player of Westbrook’s caliber, or Garnett’s caliber, or Derrick Rose’s caliber, goes down, there’s no replacing them.
“You hear a lot of things about Russ when he playing on a daily basis about what he do or what he don’t do,” Perkins said. “But obviously we all see how important he is to this team and what he bring.
“I think us missing Russ this year, Russ do one thing that stands out to me, he give everybody swag. He give everybody swag, from coach Brooks to KD to myself. I feed off of Russ. Russ may say he feed off of me, but I feed off of Russ. Even through them spurts where we was struggling in the first and third quarters with scoring, that usually be Russ’ quarter right there where he go off for about 15, 18 points sometimes.
“So I just know not to take everybody for granted, man, and just value everybody because everybody’s important.”
For the Friday Oklahoman, I wrote about the biological clock ticking for the Thunder. You can read that column here. Darnell Mayberry wrote about Kevin Durant disputing the notion that this was a “wasted year.” You can read that here.
But Perkins discounted the idea that the Thunder could write off this post-season to Westbrook’s injury.
“Nah, not really because it’s your NBA life, so it’s like a year wasted,” Perk said. “We’re not satisfied. I felt like we still could have got through that series. So we’re not just satisfied with just saying we fought hard and that’s what it is.
“I know a lot of guys didn’t go to sleep last night (after losing to Memphis). I didn’t. So at the end of the day, we wasn’t satisfied. To be honest with you, in my opinion, I thought we had a chance to make it to the Finals. I didn’t know if we had a chance to win the Finals but I thought we had a chance to make it to the Finals. But we didn’t so we got to move on.”
Is it hard to deal with knowing Perkins could have another championship ring or two, if not for injury?
“Yeah, I think about it sometimes,” Perk said. “But it happens, man. It’s life. You just got to move forward. Move on. Hopefully we will. Everybody just got to get better this summer and just come back even stronger next year. Just keep building. Just try to keep getting better at the little things. I always tell everybody ‘We all got flaws.’ That’s the good thing about our team is the way our team is built is we all cover each other flaws. I may not be a better shot-blocker than Serge, but I may do other things on the defensive end better than Serge. We balance each other out. KD and Russ, Russ’ attitude and the way he carries himself and the way he go about it on the court and KD kind of like the laid back (type). Everybody balance each other out so that’s the good thing about our team.”
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