When the NBA locked out its players before the 1998-99 season, the players let themselves go worse than Jessica Simpson after she divorced that dude from that boy band. Without access to team facilities and trainers, many players were in no condition to play any basketball when the labor issues were finally ironed out. So, since the current NBA season will be starting two months late and training camps will be abbrieviated, this was certainly a concern for every team’s coach.
Oklahoma City’s players gave Coach Scott Brooks nothing to worry about. In addition to the players who stayed in shape by playing with European teams (Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Byron Mullens), workout warriors (Russell Westbrook and Ibaka again), and Kevin Durant who played wherever there happened to be a basketball, there were some surprises.
Do you recognize that guy? I’ll give you a hint. It’s that doughy guy who intimidated the crap out of Nene in the first round of the playoffs last year. You know him…the center who generally showed up to play offense with the team right around the time the ball started going the other direction.
That’s Kendrick Perkins looking like 50 Cent when he took that movie role where he was a cancer patient.
When the news of the formerly overweight big man showing up to camp as a svelte looking modern center that can run the floor, I was not surprised. Thanks to Royce over at Daily Thunder, a workout video of Perkins behaving like the anti-Shaq became viral. That workout video showed that not only had Perk lost his baby fat, but he had started to sculpt himself and improved his flexibility so as to move better.
Not everyone is happy with the new Perk, though. John Rohde of The Oklahoman cautioned:
I understand the concern. After the trade last season, Perkins instilled a toughness in the team. Opposing teams thought twice about attacking the rim when a hard foul from the Thunder goliath was waiting for them. Now that he is, according to his own reports, 32 pounds lighter, perhaps his presence will not be as frightening.
Then again, I doubt it was Perkins girth that made him so formidable. In fact, I would assess that it was in spite of that. How many kids cower at the presence of the fat kid on the playground? What strikes fear is attitude, and unless the added years to his life are making him happier, Perkins still has that meanness…and if you watch the video at Royce’s site you’ll note he probably has more strength.
In addition, now he should be able to run the floor, get off the ground when he jumps, and probably stay healthier now that his every step is putting about 10% less stress on his surgically repaired knees.
Regardless, this makes me that much happier that the lockout is over and the season was not lost. All of the Thunder players appear to have focused on preparing for the season that many other players never believed was going to happen. And since they came very close to making the NBA Finals last season…it’s going to be fun.
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