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."

Quirky Super Bowl schedule this time around for Patriots

Quirky Super Bowl schedule this time around for Patriots

The Patriots schedule for the next few days in Massachusetts and Super Bowl Week in Houston is a little quirky.

Players are off on Tuesday (media has conference call access to Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia). There’s no media access on Wednesday at all as the team begins getting introduced to the Super Bowl game plan that will have been partially formulated (and subject to tweaking). The players are in Thursday, Friday and Saturday for afternoon practices and there’s media access to the players each day. There’s no media access on Sunday.

The team will fly to Houston on Monday and – in a major departure – will do its media duties at night. The NFL has repackaged media day as Super Bowl Opening Night. It will be held at Minute Maid Field (home of the Astros) with access to the Patriots from 10 to 11 p.m. EST.

Tuesday, there will be access from 1:30 to 2:30 EST to Belichick and a handful of players at the Patriots’ hotel. There will be full access to players and coaches on Wednesday and Thursday from 5 to 6:15 EST.

There’s no NFL-sponsored access of any kind on Friday or Saturday. Previously, there was a final press conference with the head coaches and a press conference with the NFL Commissioner. His name is Roger. Roger Goodell.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame committee meets on Saturday and will announce the 2017 inductees by the end of the day.

For those of you who like television - or who stream on your tiny devices – we’ll be all over this mess.

This week, look for Patriots Wednesday Live on Thursday at noon (hard to have Wednesday Live if ain’t nobody gonna be live from the team).

Mike Giardi and I will be down there Sunday so start looking for live reports and my giant nose in the great state of Texas at that point.

If we’re not live during media day in the evening, I don’t know what we’re doing with our lives. Quick Slants will be Tuesday night and Jerod Mayo will be down there.

Lotta podding planned. Lotta podding.

We’ll keep you updated.

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”