Perkins Uses His Words to Put Thunder in Right Spot

At Chesapeake Energy Arena, in-game chatter can often be drowned out by the deafening crowd noise and music from DJ Boom, but with a close listen coaches and players can be heard shouting out directions to one another. Voices may be hoarse by the end of each contest, but calling out screens, talking through defensive switches and signaling in offensive plays all involve a certain amount of verbal and non-verbal interaction.

“It’s so important to be a team that communicates,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “That’s an area, every team I’ve been on from every level, every coach has always stressed it. Very rarely do you get it. We are still not where we have to be. Our bigs do a good job. (Kendrick) Perkins is a very good communicator. That’s good, we have to have that."

Perkins, the imposing, 6-foot-10, 270-pound center, is in his second season with the Thunder and eighth overall in the NBA. The Thunder is 28-7 (.800) with Perkins in the lineup, and has allowed significantly fewer points per game since he was acquired in a trade-deadline deal last February. Much of that defensive success stems from Perkins’ role as the anchor of the defense and chief communicator.

“I just think communication is key, especially on the defensive end,” Perkins said. “The first step of starting the defense is talking. I think it’s key and it’s intimidating at the same time. … I’m trying to make it contagious and we’re doing a better job of it.”

Perkins is all toughness and intimidation, so it’s no surprise that that aspect of talking on the court is his favorite. With fellow defensive stopper Serge Ibaka giving out defensive cues to teammates, the Thunder has allowed only 93.3 points per game this season and only 41.5 percent shooting, second best in the NBA. With Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson running the point guard position for the first and second unit, the communication on offense has also been solid and will continue to improve.

“It’s a combination of guys listening and guys communicating,” Brooks said. “I think we have some good listeners and the communication part needs to continue to build. We need to build that part of our defensive schemes. … It’s not always on the point guard, it’s on the whole team to understand where we are.”

Westbrook, Ibaka, Kevin Durant, Nick Collison and James Harden have now played together for an extended period of time and have built some continuity and familiarity. Along the front line, Perkins and Ibaka are continuing to develop that rapport to form one of the best defensive duos in the NBA. The two players average a combined 12.2 rebounds and 3.78 blocks per game.

“Those two guys, they have good chemistry with one another,” Brooks said. “Perk and Serge, they love to defend, they love to protect the basket. We all have to do a better job of rebounding. But they love it. … Those guys are our enforcers down there.”

As the Brooks-dubbed enforcer, Perkins has carved out his niche on the team as a player who is not concerned with personal accolades, praise or statistics, but rather wins and doing things the right way. With what seems like a perpetual game face intact, Perkins displays a gruff outer presence as the signal to opponents that the Thunder is a team that will not be pushed around.

“Sometimes he communicates in a boisterous (way) and with an intimidating look about him, but he’s about the team,” Brooks said. “I love how he plays. I keep emphasizing this because it’s so true. I never look at his stats, I look at his body language. I look at his effort. And he does that, he gives us good body language and he gives great, positive energy every night on the defensive end.”