Last season, other teams largely would ignore Kendrick Perkins on the offensive end. The Thunder would try to get him going pretty much every night, throwing the ball to him in the post on the first couple trips down the court, getting him some touches before letting Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook take over.
How did it work? Perkins shot a career low 45.7 percent and his PER of 8.2 was the lowest in the NBA of anyone getting 25 minutes a game or more. (To be fair, the Thunder’s starting five was +10.6 per 48 minutes when on the court last season with a defensive rating of 97 points per 100 possessions. It worked. The question is did it work because of or in spite of Perkins? Take out Perkins and replace him in that same lineup with Hasheem Thabeet and the Thunder were +19.3 per 48 minutes.)
“I’ve been working, man,” Perkins said. “Been in the gym and basically just working more in the weight room on my explosiveness and touch around the basket, hook shots and stuff like that. I’ve been shooting a lot of jumpers, making sure I make 300 a night. I’m just trying to prepare.”
No doubt Oklahoma City will be one of the best teams in the West next season, a contender led by the second best player on the planet, as athletic a guard as there is in the league and some role players that fit well. But to really contend come May and June without James Harden or his lesser replacement Kevin Martin, guys like Jeremy Lamb are going to have to step up.
And so is Perkins.
“What people don’t understand is this is this is KD’s sixth year, Russ’ fifth year,” Perkins said. “Now, they’re veterans. They’ve got enough experience. And it’s Thabo (Sefolosha’s) contract year, and you know how guys perform on their contract year. So at the end of the day we feel like we got enough to get it done.”
If they get any offense out of Perkins, that would help.
Report: Derrick Rose away from Cavaliers, evaluating his future in basketball
Rose has been out with what seemed like a relative minor, for him at least, ankle injury. The 29-year-old could stick in the league for a while thanks to his reputation and ability to attack the rim to create shots for himself. But the guard is a shell of peak form after years of more serious injuries. This isn’t the career anyone expected for him when he was named the youngest MVP ever in 2011.
The Suns made Mike James – a 27-year-old rookie on a two-way contract – their starting point guard.
Though he eventually ceded the role to Tyler Ulis, James – the only player on a two-way contract to start an NBA game – is still a rotation regular. He’s an aggressive defender and possesses plenty of offensive moves.
The problem: Unless demoted to Phoenix’s minor-league affiliate before then, he’ll max out the 45 allowable NBA days for a two-way player Dec. 6.
We’d still like to get him on the 15-man roster and we’re looking at different ways to do that.
The Suns can unilaterally convert James’ two-contract into a standard one-year minimum deal. Both sides could also negotiate a longer contract.
The bigger issue is clearing a roster spot.
Phoenix has the maximum 15 players with standard contracts with no obvious cuts. Derrick Jones Jr. doesn’t play much, but the 20-year-old’s athleticism creates intriguing upside. Second-rounder Davon Reed is hurt, though teams rarely cut bait so quickly.
The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.
However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.
“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”
This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.
Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.
Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.