Perkins: Committed to Working Hard
A common theme early in Training Camp 2011 has been the overall fitness level of the Thunder roster, top to bottom. Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks has talked about it after each of the first three days of camp, as has every Thunder player who has met with the media since first arriving in Oklahoma City last week.
But on Sunday, Kendrick Perkins talked for the first time about an offseason in which he lost 31 pounds and dramatically changed his 6-foot-10 body with a vigorous training schedule and a commitment to eating right.
"I worked hard this summer. I was disappointed in myself last year in the playoffs. I don't like to blame anything on injuries, but at the same time, I was out there so I should have made a difference," Perkins said following the fourth practice of camp. "I just wanted to come back healthy and give it a shot with these young guys and the rest of the team and the city to show them what I can do."
Perkins is as hard on himself as he is an opponent who ventures into the lane. He continues to push himself with the same intensity as he has since the Thunder acquired Perkins from Boston last February. He arrived in Oklahoma City still recovering from the ACL injury he sustained in his right knee in Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals. He wanted to contribute with his new team and did so with his leadership and toughness, especially on the defensive end of the court.
"I give Perk a lot of credit," Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said. "Last season he came to us in the trade and had to sit out a few weeks before he was able to play. He put himself out there. Structurally, his knee was fine, but he was rusty. He didn’t play a touch of basketball for eight months. Not a lot of athletes would do that, put themselves in a position to be on the floor not at their best.
"He did a great job of giving us what we needed and he gave us everything he had. As the coach, I appreciate that type of commitment he has to the team."
Perkins said it was important to establish early to his new teammates and coaches the feeling, "I'm in."
"I didn't care how ... I just wanted to be out there," he said. "I knew my leadership skills and me being vocal could make a difference."
He carried that drive into the offseason. He set a goal of reporting to camp at 275 pounds. He shattered that, arriving at a chiseled 267 pounds.
He hired both a nutritionist and a personal trainer, and immediately went to work. Every morning, from 9 a.m. to noon, Perkins worked on his physical fitness with a series of weights, conditioning drills and exercises to increase his mobility. In the evenings, he would be in a gym to put up shots and play in occasional pick-up games.
It was not easy, especially the diet portion of the program.
"I was used to eating whatever I wanted," he said. "I had to change up my diet, but there was a lot of things that were healthy on the menu that I actually liked. I feel a ton better. I'm just happy that I was able to get the nutritionist and am thankful for him. At the same time, it's just a sacrifice you have to do. You have to be honest with yourself and look yourself in the mirror and go from there."
His teammates, to a man, took the same challenge. Perkins said he was "surprised" to see the team's overall conditioning level, given the youth of the roster and six-month time frame that stood between the last game of the Western Conference Finals and the first day of Thunder Training Camp.
"Actually, guys looked better than before. That meant a lot, not just to the coaching staff, but in my mind, you look around and you see a group of a guys, a lot of them under the age of 25, for them to be responsible for themselves in the summertime was very key," he said. "It made you look at things differently. It made you look and say, 'Wow, these guys really got it on their mind to go out there and win'. It was cool."
Perkins will no doubt have a key role in maintaining that mind-set. He said he will continue to push himself and hopes the lighter body frame will help him move quicker and jump higher, though he warns: "I've never been a real leaper. I've got some kind of hops now, though."
"Before I got hurt, I was one of those guys who was able to switch out on the guard and (defend) him on the perimeter at the defensive end without help. I was just trying to get back to those days and even better. I'm just trying to be better than I was before I got hurt."
And in case you're wondering, the weight loss did nothing to the look of intensity on Perkins' face. It remains as fierce as ever.
"He’s still mean," Brooks said, laughing. "He’s still pushing people, he’s still grumpy. We need grumpy Perk. He’s ready. I like the fact that he came in ready."