Perkins key to Thunder success

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Perkins key to Thunder success

BOSTON Kendrick Perkins is back, looking skinny as ever.

The body might look different, but Perkins is still Perkins.

And his play has been one of the keys to the Oklahoma City Thunder once again holding their own as one of the NBA's elite teams.

His numbers this season - 4.2 points and 4.6 rebounds - don't come close to speaking to the impact he has had on the Thunder who advanced to the NBA Finals a year ago.

"What he does day-in and day-out is perfect for what we need," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "He's not a guy ... we're not going to go to him and say, 'Perk we need 12 points tonight.' He has to continue to bring that toughness, bring that spirit of competition every night and he does it. He does so many good things for us. Every good team needs a guy like Perk."

While Perkins would love to see his numbers improve this season, he understands that doing the dirty work that often goes unnoticed, is vital to his team winning.

"It's definitely hard," Perkins said. "It takes sacrificing. But at the end of the day, I'm trying to win. I know my numbers aren't where they need to be, but at the end of the day ... some games I might take eight, nine shots. Some games I may take none. But at the end of the day, it's about winning. I just try to find differnt ways to get involved."

Like setting screens which has been part of the high-scoring play of Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook.

"Perk is never going to have big stats," said C's head coach Doc Rivers. "That's not why you have Perk on your team. He just does a lot of other things. You can't put a number on identity or perception, but there is a number. Perk gives that team that."

Much of what folks praise Perkins for, are lessons learned from his playing days with Kevin Garnett.

"Kevin has an influence on everybody," Rivers said. "I thought he really helped Perk, not only on the floor but off the floor, being a professional. Game preparation, there's nobody better in our league than Kevin and now you hear Perk does the same stuff."

Even though they no longer play together, Perkins still calls on Garnett from time to time for advice.

"KG's my mentor, so I'm always going to call him and ask him about the game and stuff like that," Perkins said. "I know he's going to come out and try and take my head off. We'll be cool after the game, but I know what it is."

Perkins, about as candid a player as you'll find in the NBA, makes no secret about coming into tonight's game looking to make a point.

"You always have this certain type of chip on your shoulder being traded," Perkins said. "You always want to come out and show them what you missed. That's what it is."

But balancing that with playing against guys he's still very close to - he and Rajon Rondo still talk everyday - does make these games tougher for him than others.

"It's hard mentally," Perkins said. "You have to get mentally ready just to go against some of my brothers over there, but it's hard. But at the same time, I know they're going to come out and try and win the game like we're gonna try and win the game. At the end of the day, it's a lot of love and respect on both ends. I'm glad we're in different conferences so that if we have to meet up in the playoffs, it would be the (NBA) Finals."

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

BOSTON -- Compared to most high draft picks, Jaylen Brown doesn’t log a ton of minutes for the Boston Celtics.
 
Playing on an experienced team with legit hopes of making a deep playoff run, rookies seeing limited minutes is a given.
 
Knowing playing time will come in a limited supply, Brown understands all too well the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity he gets on the floor.
 
He did just that on Saturday in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia, and he hopes to do more of the same on Monday when the Celtics take on the Houston Rockets.
 
When you look at Brown’s stat line, nothing about it looks impressive. He played 15 minutes, scored two points with one rebound and one blocked shot.
 
But beyond the stats was the fact that he was on the floor for seven minutes in the fourth quarter in a close back-and-forth game on the road. Rookies on the floor in crunch time is not the norm in the NBA.
 
“It means a lot,” Brown told reporters after Saturday’s win. “I try to be as best I can be for my team; try to put my best foot forward every night out.”
 
And he did just that on Saturday.
 
In the fourth quarter with the Celtics leading 87-83, Brown blocked a Gerald Henderson shot that wound up in the hands of Jae Crowder. Moments later, Jonas Jerebko hit a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics their largest lead of the game, 90-83.
 
And just two minutes prior to the blocked shot, he was out in transition following an Isaiah Thomas steal and threw down a dunk that pushed Boston’s lead to 86-83 with 7:11 to play.
 
Brown acknowledged making the most of those opportunities bodes well for him and the franchise.
 
“It’s great for our team in general; not just for me,” Brown said. “Those plays helped us to pull the game out in the end. So I’m glad we got the win. I think we should have played a little better than we did.”
 
The continued pursuit of self-improvement is a hallmark of what Brown’s focus and desire are at this stage of his pro career. He has talked often about not wanting to be just one of the best in this draft class but also one of the best in the NBA overall.
 
But he’s also learned that to get there takes time and experience developing both physically and mentally. Part of that mental growth entails having the right approach to games.
 
“Usually you try to tell yourself not to mess up,” Brown said. “Now that I’m getting more comfortable, it’s just play basketball, bring energy, things like that; come out and do what you’re supposed to do. A lot of times you try to tell yourself to not mess up and it’s counteractive; just come out and play basketball and have fun.”
 
And by doing so the minutes will come.
 
“You can’t control that. I just have to control what I can control,” Brown said. “I trust coach (Brad Stevens); I trust my coaching staff. I have to come out and in the minutes I get, play my hand as best I can and take advantage of what I do get and impact this team as much as possible.”
 
This season, Brown is averaging 4.8 points, 2.0 rebounds while shooting 41.9 percent from the field.

Zolak: Bennett helps with Gronk loss, but Pats need to manage him

Zolak: Bennett helps with Gronk loss, but Pats need to manage him

Scott Zolak said on Pregame Live Sunday that the Patriots are better-suited to survive a season-ending injury to Rob Gronkowski than they were a season ago. 

Zolak said that given the health of Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and the signing of Chris Hogan, the offense has more stability at other positions to make up for the loss of Gronkowski, whose season is over due to back surgery. As for the tight end position, Zolak said he feels the Patriots traded for Martellus Bennett to protect themselves against scenarios like the one they currently face. 

“This offseason they [acquired] Martellus Bennett, I think for this very reason: to prepare for what really happens year after year, is some sort of issue comes up with Rob Gronkowski and you have to play without him,” Zolak said.

Bennett was questionable with an ankle injury for this week’s game, but is expected to play. Asked about the health of Bennett, Zolak said that he believes the tight end is good to play, but that his importance to the team with Gronkowski out means the Pats will need to be careful. 

“I think he’s healthy enough to get through about 30-35 snaps,” Zolak said. “They’ve got to balance him now moving forward.”