Thunder’s Kendrick Perkins out six weeks after surgery to repair groin injury

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Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks will not be able to lean on Kendrick Perkins for the next six weeks — something that will be welcomed by a lot of Thunder fans. At least until they see the team is 0-3 without him this season and the defense suffers.

Perkins will be out up to six weeks following surgery to repair a strained groin suffered last Thursday night against the Heat, first reported by Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman and now confirmed by the team.

Perkins was injured in the third quarter last Thursday and did not play Sunday against the Clippers, with rookie Steven Adams starting in his place. However, at crunch time at the end of the game Brooks went with a smaller lineup of Serge Ibaka, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher (the Clippers had a 13-2 run late to win that game).

Brooks has leaned on Perkins against lineups where he has nobody to really guard (the Miami Heat small lineup being the most obvious), much to the frustration of fans. Brooks goes back to Perkins at the end of games giving the opposing team an obvious guy to help off of (and a guy near the basket making it easier for the opposing big to protect the rim).

The knock on Perkins is what he does to the Thunder offense — they go from scoring 110.1 points per 100 possessions when he is sitting on the bench to 102.7 when he is on the court (because he is not a weapon, despite the fact the Thunder force feed him a few post possessions early every game). The Thunder defense gets a little worse, one point per 100, when he sits, but that doesn’t compensate for the offense. Bottom line, the Thunder and 8.2 points per 100 better with him on the bench.

That said, you can’t just plug someone in for Perkins and make it work, it’s not an accident they are 0-3 without him.. This season when you sub in Adams for Perkins with the rest of the Thunder’s usual starting five (Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Durant and Ibaka) the Thunder get 14.2 points per 100 possessions worse, mostly because their defense gives up 122 points per 100 possessions (this would be small sample size theater, as Adams has only played 82 minutes with that group). Adams has a chance here, but he is inexperienced and that shows at times, something that will cost the Thunder as he learns.

Perkins has a role on this team and in certain matchups can be crucial. The good news is this injury will force Brooks to go away from his crutch and find other rotations that work for Oklahoma City, something that can benefit them in the playoffs.

But it’s not as simple as saying Oklahoma City is better without Perkins. Reality is more nuanced than that.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.