By Randy Renner
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins and Miami forward Chris Bosh may not agree on much of anything but one thing they appear to is why the Thunder lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
In an interview session in Miami before the Heat flew to San Antonio for the NBA Finals, Bosh said one thing you can’t do when you’re playing the Spurs is settle for low percentage shots and Bosh said that’s precisely what the Thunder did, “they didn’t have the discipline to continue to work their offense.”
It’s an argument we’ve heard around here fairly consistently, especially from TNT analyst Charles Barkley who has criticized the Thunder for years as being just, “a jump shooting team.”
This week the Thunder’s truth teller, Kendrick Perkins weighed in also. Perk never dances around a subject, when you ask him a direct question he gives you a direct answer.
And when asked about next season and what the team needs to do to take the next step Perkins didn’t sugar coat his answer.
“Obviously we all got a lot of work to go do to get better. I think the biggest thing with our team is our mental (approach). I my opinion we had more than enough talent to win a champion ship this year, we just fell short because of the mental things that we did wrong.”
Like say settling for bad shots.
“And I think that just comes from actually studying the game, watching film, going and gettin’ knowledge from other people that’s around.”
Say what you want about Perk’s ability to play the game these days, injuries have taken their toll especially offensively, but Kendrick Perkins knows the game of basketball. And he’s urging some of his teammates to bone up on the intricacies of the game.
It’s not physical for the Thunder anymore, now it’s all about knowing exactly what to do and when to do it and trusting in a system and in your teammates.
And Perkins urged his teammates to watch The Finals closely.
“You got two great teams that’s playing in The NBA Finals. The Spurs, they wasn’t more athletic than us, they wasn’t more talented than us but they outsmarted us,” Perkins admitted. “So you ought watch them to see what mentally you need to do.”
Perkins urged all of his teammates to stop making stupid mistakes and dumb plays that can add up to a season ending earlier than it should have.
“Goin’ into next year we gotta do a better job of valuing the ball possession by possession,” he said.
In the Thunder’s loss in Game 6 against the Spurs, OKC turned it over 20 times, leading to 33 San Antonio points. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had seven each.
“Turnovers is what cost us (that) game. The defense got enough stops, but there was times we came up with the ball and then came down and had wasted offensive possessions where we did not score and we had careless offensive turnovers. Turnovers that wasn’t even forced, just careless turnovers. They scored every time off our turnovers and you can’t beat a team in the Western Conference Finals like that.”
Asked what Durant and Westbrook need to do, Perk’s first answer was a short, “they just need to keep getting’ better,” then he quickly got a bit more detailed.
“As far as with Russ, it’s his mental. When Russ don’t gamble he’s solid and he’s put nit in his mind that he wants to be the most athletic point guard ever to play the position and on the defensive end he do it. And Kevin, it’s all in his mind. But obviously I think he can get stronger, I think that would help him a lot.
“And I told him all the good and great players from (Michael) Jordan to Kobe (Bryant) to LeBron (James) they all put size on and it helped them. So I think that’s what he need to do.”
Perkins also knows what he needs to do to improve for next season. He’s not deaf to all the talk about Steven Adams replacing him in the starting lineup next season and he fully realizes next season is his last under his current contract.
“I know this off-season is gonna be the biggest off-season of my career, it’s the first time I’m gonna approach being an unrestricted free agent so I gotta try to get back to the basketball that I played in Boston, so that’s my goal.”
Before Perk got up and left his session with the media he shared with us another piece of advice he had already given to his teammates.
“And that’s learning how to play the right way for 82 games and not tryin to turn on this “on” switch in playoffs. I think what you do in January effects how you play in April, May and June,” he pointed out.
“And the two teams that’s in The Finals right now, they play the same way all year long. They make the right basketball play every time down. I just think coming into next season we just gotta start off playing agenda free basketball and it’ll take care of itself.”
If not, the ageless Spurs may very well be waiting again, ready to administer another reminder about a lesson the Thunder should have already learned.