It's a happy anniversary for Perkins

It's a happy anniversary for Perkins
February 24, 2012, 11:18 am
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OKLAHOMA CITY The Oklahoma City Thunder locker room had become a virtual ghost town, with not a player in sight except Kendrick Perkins.

He emerged from the hot tub, towel draped around his waist with water rolling off his shoulders.

Perkins apologized for being so late leaving the hot tub, unaware that anyone was waiting.

From there, he proceeded to touch on a number of topics, including the one-year anniversary of the trade that dramatically changed the direction of two teams.

Boston's decision to trade Perkins to Oklahoma City has not worked on so many levels. Short-term, the key acquisition for Boston - Jeff Green - never quite made the impact the C's were hoping for. The Thunder, conversely, have established themselves as one of the favorites to win it all this season.

Meanwhile, Perkins provided toughness, physical play and the battle scars that come from fighting for, and ultimately wining, an NBA title.

"I'm happy Danny Ainge traded him to us," said Thunder star Kevin Durant.

And Perkins, well, let's just say the way he feels about the trade today is radically different than his immediate emotions following the trade.

"Oh, I was pissed; that's real talk," Perkins told "But hey, like they always say, this is a business. And being traded? That's part of the business."

Perkins soon clarifies that his anger was more about disappointment that he wouldn't be able to continue playing with the only team, the only franchise, he had known.

And having won a title, he said, made it hurt even more.

"That's what you play for, to win a championship," he said. "I honestly felt we were going to win one again. That's what I was most pissed about; not being able to win another one with my guys."

But it didn't take Perkins too long to embrace his new teammates, and vice versa.

While no one disputes Durant is the Thunder's leader, having someone with Perkins' presence, experience and big-game experience has been instrumental in Oklahoma City's rise to the top of the NBA mountaintop.

"He brought a different type of swagger," Durant said. "His aura is great to be around. He's great to be around. He's a leader."

And that, maybe more than anything else, was the biggest difference between his role in Boston and his new one with the Thunder.

"They kind of looked up to me to be a leader," Perkins admitted. "I was cool with that; real cool with that. After being around Ticket Kevin Garnett and the Truth Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, shoot, you can't ask for better leaders than those guys."

It didn't take long for his teammates to realize that they may have as much talent as anybody, but their toughness had to be ratcheted up.

And Perkins was going to be the one to make it happen.

"I wouldn't say they were a soft team before I got here," Perkins said. "I just think by me being who I am, I think that brought a lot of the toughness inside of them, out."

And as he reflects on all that has transpired in the year since the trade, he admits it's all bittersweet.

He left a team that was more to him than just teammates.

They were brothers; mostly older brothers who helped shape him into the player, the man, he is today.

To see them struggle so since his departure, and being unable to do anything about it, is not easy for him to deal with or accept.

"Those fellas are like family to me," Perkins said. "When you go through all that we did, the losing, getting Ticket and Ray, winning a championship . . . it's tough walking away from that; real tough."

But Perkins isn't shedding any tears over his new gig, either.

He is an integral part of an Oklahoma City team that many believe have what it takes now to win a championship.

And as you listen to Perkins talk about his new teammates in this new city that's relatively close to his home state of Texas, you see something you rarely from Perkins in Boston - a smile.

"I'm good," he said. "I'm blessed. I can't complain. I'm with a young team, and my role ain't really changed. I can go out there and be me. I don't have to do too much; winning, and playing with great players, in a great system. It's definitely a blessing."