The Thunder roster still has all these familiar faces, yet two players looked noticeably different Friday afternoon during the long-awaited first practice of the 2011-12 season.
Kevin Durant looks bigger, and Kendrick Perkins is definitely smaller.
Durant officially was listed at 6-foot-9, 215 pounds as a rookie out of Texas when he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2007.
Now he's every bit of 6-foot-10 and said he weighs 235 pounds.
“Still skinny, but I feel a little bigger,” the two-time defending scoring champion said with a wide grin. “That's a big thing to me (gaining 20 pounds as a pro). It's a big step up.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Durant: “He's stronger. He's added some muscle.”
Perkins was listed at 6-foot-10, 280 pounds as a rookie out of Ozen High School in Beaumont, Texas, when he was drafted No. 27 overall in 2003.
During his exit interview last May, Perkins vowed to lose 20 pounds during the offseason and he appears to have done so.
A once burly Perk is looking downright svelt.
Brooks: “Perk looks terrific.”
Durant: “He's slimmed down.”
Russell Westbrook: “He's in great shape. He's moving quickly and did a great job in the summertime.”
Coming off major knee surgery from a torn right ACL he suffered in Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals, Perkins never was at full strength last season – not when he was with the Boston Celtics, nor after he was traded to the Thunder on Feb. 24.
Perkins sprained the opposite knee two days before the trade and missed his first nine games with OKC.
“I give Perk a lot of credit,” Brooks said. “He put himself out there. Structurally, the knee was fine, but he was rusty. He didn't play or touch a basketball for nearly eight months (during rehabilitation). Not a lot of athletes will do that, put themselves in a position to be on the floor not at their best, but he gave us some things we needed. He gave us some toughness. He gave us some leadership. He's had a good summer. He's been able to really focus in on his training, on his basketball work. He came back very, very determined.”
The particulars of Perkins' summer regimen were not shared Friday because Brooks, Durant and Westbrook were the only people allowed to be interviewed.
Perkins could be walking a fine line here, however. Thunder general manager Sam Presti traded for a brawny Perkins, not a budding Nutrisystems spokesperson.
Though he has lost some weight, Perkins evidently has not lost his nasty disposition on the court.
“He's still mean,” Brooks deadpanned. “He's still pushing people, and he's grumpy. We need grumpy Perk. He's ready.”
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