J.A. Sherman of Welcome to Loud City and I go way back, so it is always fun to do a Q&A with him prior to a game. Here's my questions to him.
1) Let's get this out of the way. How's my boy Perkins doing these days? (actually, I'll cheat and break this into 3 sub-questions.
a) Does he still have that snarl-swagger? Based on his run in with Z-Bo it sounds like he's still adhering to the KG school of "If you aren't with us, we're against you."
Kendrick Perkins is like...you Celtics fans can always fill in the blanks. Dirty Harry waking up on the wrong side of the bed. Norman Dale trying to coach Kobe. Perkins is in a state of perpetual irritation. And that is probably a good thing.
Because the Thunder are by and large a bunch of good guys who play a good game of basketball and they don't all have the requisite edge needed to win games when things aren't going well. To be sure, Russell Westbrook still plays with a heat-seeking attitude, but overall the team still needs some veteran nastiness from time to time whenever guys like Zach Randolph or Tim Duncan come into town.
b) How is his productivity and impact on the court?
For all the guff that Jeff Green takes on a nightly basis where he doesn't appear to be producing up to his contract, you can rest assured that the extended Thunder fanbase is just as divided on Perkins. He has never been a pure stats kind of guy, but there are certain basic levels of performance to which he should still adhere. For example, he's never going to be a double-digit scorer (and if he is, that team isn't going to be winning many games), but if he's playing 30 minutes a night, he should be able to get 10 rebounds. When he doesn't, the fans can get nervous because it means more of the rebounding load falls on Kevin Durant.
He's still a great clubhouse leader and offers the intangibles on the court, but when a team aspires to win a championship, there are measurables that must be met too.
c) For fun, if we offered you Jeff Green straight up for Perkins, would you do that deal?
Well, that's an interesting scenario. No.
2) How's things with Kevin Martin so far? By the way, now you know how the Celtics fans felt about trading away such a beloved member of our team. Though you could only wish that Perkins went out and started dropping 45 points on people. On a scale of one to ten (with one being "James who?" and 10 being the scene where Luke finds out Darth is his daddy) how hard is the fanbase still taking it?
The Kevin Martin story continues apace. I think that the first week of the no-beard-experience was a tough one to swallow. Not only were the Thunder players and fans losing an integral part of their team on the court, but Harden the person had been fully embraced by the OKC community as well. Did you happen to catch this?
That's the kind of thing that rarely happens in the pros, and yet the OKC fanbase had helped Harden take on a life of its own. Suffice to say, there are no more beard-buildings in town.
Moving on, the team has done a good job to integrate Martin into the fold. While he is not nearly as adept as Harden as a playmaker, Martin is much better at fitting into an offensive system and thriving. Previously the Thunder offense was a take-your-turn Durant/Westbrook/Harden triumvirate that was thrilling in its individuality but wanting in its chemistry. With Martin though the offense has a much better flow to it, as K-Mart doesn't need to have the ball in his hands in order to be a weapon.
There are still some team vacancies that have yet to be filled, such as 2nd unit leadership, but for the time being the Thunder are still staying afloat with their new team in place.
I think that the Thunder still have as good a shot as any team coming out of the West to make the Finals, and that is with Harden playing in Houston. I don't worry about the Lakers too much because I don't trust that their little experiment is going to work. THe teams that do scare me though are the Clippers and Grizzlies. The reason why is because the Thunder, for all of their wondrous abilities, still lack a certain 48 minutes of focus that can fall prey to teams that know how to grind. I'm sure you all still remember Tony Allen - he and his team know how to grind. The Clippers, lob city or not, play in a similar fashion.
Talent-wise, I don't think anyone stacks up to OKC, but in a 7 game series, the team that knows how to recover from losses and persevere is the team which the Thunder must be concerned with the most.
Many thanks J.A.
You can see my responses to his questions here.