When there is a team of youngsters ages 22, 23 and 24, there is always a veteran head watching over them. Whether or not that veteran is as offensively present as they are is irrelevant. The veteran is there for fundamentals and knowledge.
That is Kendrick Perkins’ role with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
There may be times when he can contribute some points to a victory, but his presence in the low post and his disruption on the boards is enough for the Thunder to live with. What happens when that veteran presence begins questioning the strategies of the coach?
Do the youngsters follow suit?
Scott Brooks better hope not, because the Thunder are sitting square in the face of the grim reaper and the Miami Heat are one win away from snatching away dreams of an NBA title. The doubt surrounding Coach Brooks is unwarranted and lethal by all comparisons.
When you have a team that has lost three-straight and is playing an elimination game away from one of the most supportive crowds in the NBA to date, there is no room for doubt.
The Thunder need to be a unit walking into Game 5 and Perkins’ comments about Brooks’ decisions on early rotations, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, do not have a place in Miami.
Q: It seems like they make plays and you guys don't make plays. Was that the case again tonight?
A: I just don't understand why we start out the first quarter the way we did, with the lineup that we had, and all of a sudden we change and adjust to what they had going on. So they won the last three quarters, and that's what happened.
Q: So you're talking about the group that went out there and got the 17-point lead wasn't out there long enough?
A: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. So we just gotta make sure that we play together. The series is not over. We just have to keep taking it one game at a time. We win Thursday and we're back to Oklahoma City.
Taking a step back from his comments to evaluate their validity, when were substitutions made throughout Oklahoma City’s fiery start?
The first substitution was made when Serge Ibaka got a quick second foul with a little over seven minutes left in the first quarter with the Thunder up, 15-7. Nick Collison entered the game and finished the first quarter out with six points, three rebounds and a single assist, on a Perkins basket.
The second substitution of the first quarter was with 6:18 on the clock where James Harden came in for Thabo Sefolosha, who had not been making too much of an impact early on against Miami. Harden’s Durant-assisted layup pushed the Thunder to a 17-point lead with 21 seconds left in the quarter.
Maybe Kendrick Perkins is frowning at the fact that he was taken out of the game after a shooting foul on Dwyane Wade. Derek Fisher was subbed in. It was painfully apparent that none of these substitutions had an incredible impact, with the exception of Collison’s entrance, since the Thunder were up 14 points by the start of the second quarter.
The group that went out there to achieve a 17-point lead over Miami was filled with substitutes. Keeping one of your strongest defensive players in the paint out of foul trouble is significant to keeping the Heat from exercising their strengths. That is what Coach Brooks was doing when he took Ibaka out.
It is not because of Coach Brooks’ rotations that the Thunder lost the game. It was a team effort from the Miami Heat that punched Oklahoma City directly in the mouth for a Game 4 loss.
What Perkins needs to realize, and maybe already has, is that the LeBron James he heckled after Blake Griffin posterized him is leading a team of able gentlemen to an NBA Championship.
This is not a one-man show. The Heat are doing something to the Thunder that Oklahoma City found was the only way to beat the San Antonio Spurs. In a collective effort, Miami is going to the hole at will and utilizing every fraction of manpower to get the job done.
What should Perkins be complaining about?
He should be complaining about the lack of ball movement from last night’s game. The Thunder had 13 assists on the game and zero in the fourth quarter. This time, the blame cannot fall directly on Westbrook’s shoulders. He can get his stars the ball, but he can’t shoot for them.
He should also be concerned about the fact that when LeBron James went out with painful cramps, the Thunder allowed Mario Chalmers to take over for Miami. Not Dwyane Wade. Not Chris Bosh. Mario Chalmers became the highlight of the fourth quarter.
Perkins should be more focused on the lack of aggression from Kevin Durant than on Scott Brooks; rotations and his lapses in the fourth quarter.
With 9:21 left, a bad pass from Durant led to a LeBron steal.
With 2:34 left, Durant loses the ball for a Wade steal that led directly to a two-point make for Miami.
With 1:23 left, Durant fouls Chris Bosh and with 13 seconds left in the game, Durant flails up a three-point miss.
Durant did not score a single point in four minutes of the last game and that is not what fans have come to expect from him.
Kendrick Perkins’ job with the Oklahoma City Thunder is to be that veteran presence with the fundamentals and basic knowledge of the game to sit the blame and credit where it belongs.
It’s not Coach Brooks’ fault that the Thunder lost that game.
It’s due to the fact that everyone stepped aside to let Russell Westbrook play alone that Oklahoma City Thunder lost the game.