By Randy Renner
Thunder starting center Kendrick Perkins knew going into the summer he had to do something to get his mojo back.
Perk has struggled the last couple of years with his offensive game and has constantly been in the bulls-eye of some fans and media members who want to see the Thunder make a change.
He's still stout defensively though and the Thunder have made it clear they are laser focused on being strong on that end of the floor, but now Perkins is facing a challenge from second year man Steven Adams who appears to be much better offensively and is quickly improving his defensive game.
Perk downplayed the looming battle a little during Monday's media day interview session saying "to be honest with you, I think going into training camp it's always a position battle. Every year going in if you're not one of the hundred million dollar guys it's always a position battle."
Perkins isn't a "hundred million dollar guy" but he is set to make about $9.5 million this season in the last year of the contract he signed in 2011 and he felt going into the off-season he needed to make some changes and prepare to try to have as big a year as possible. Soi he changed his diet and his workout habits and dropped about 20 pounds.
"I don't feel like I'm just an old man," he pointed out, "I just felt like I had to get my confidence back, need to get back to how I used to play in Boston."
If he can some how do that, he will surely hold off (at least for now) the challenge from Adams. But Perk will be at a disadvantage at the start of training camp, he's out for at least the first couple of weeks with a pulled quad muscle. He hurt it running "down-and-backs" at the end of a workout last week, "just one of those crazy things."
Collison Facing Contract Year Too
Thunder backup forward Nick Collison is also facing a big year, one that could also see even more of a transition for Nick toward the end of the Thunder bench. Last season saw his minutes and his production drop and like Perkins, Collison is also playing under the last year of his contract.
"You think about the future but one thing I've learned over the years is you can't really ask yourself an unanswerable question. And that's a good way to look at it because there's really no way to know what's going to happen."
And what makes this season even more interesting is the Thunder used their 1st round pick in this year's draft to bring in the guy who may end up replacing Collison.
"I think Mitch (McGary) has a great attitude and he's got the ability. I think he's gonna have a really good career. Right now he's just trying to do the work every day and that's what it takes."
McGary Shadowing Collison
No question the Thunder rookie wants to be in the rotation as soon as he can and be able to play alongside some of his basketball idols.
"This team is something special, not many organizations have so many high caliber guys, so just to get out on the court and do what I can with them, I'll do whatever I can just to be on the court."
Right now he figures the best way to do that is to become Nick Collison's shadow.
Where ever Nick goes, Mitch goes.
"Nick is great, he knows all the secrets of being a veteran so I follow him around. In the weight room, when we're on the court doing drills I'm right there, right behind him on his heels. Just trying to mirror what he's doin. Nick's helped me tremendously."
McGary has already impressed his new teammates with his energy, toughness, grit and especially his athleticism.
They all remember, just like the fans do, what McGary looked like in summer league grabbing rebounds and then running the floor, ending a couple of those trips with slam dunks.
If he can show he can do that at times against the elite NBA competition he's facing in his own team's practices, he may very well earn those precious minutes on the floor.