There are a few statistical measures to prove Kendrick Perkins’ worth. He denies opponents in the low-post at a pretty phenomenal rate. He grabs rebounds, blocks shots, and has established the NBA record for scowls-per-48-minutes in each of the past four seasons. But some of Perk’s biggest contributions go unnoticed by any statistics, even the so-called “advanced” ones that say Derrick Rose is not as valuable as Landry Fields.
Take last night, for example. The Blazers spouted their mouths before the game about how physical they would have to play against the Celtics. ”We have to throw the first punch,” Wesley Matthews told the Oregonian. ”They’re going to hit hard and try to hit first, and I don’t think the referees are going to make a call for us,” said Nicolas Batum. “So we have to be smart … we’ve got to play tougher than them.”
The talk wasn’t just noise, either. Portland meant it. Play was chippy from the beginning, with Joel Przybilla, in the words of Bill Walton, doing what Przybilla does best — violating the rules. When Przybilla set a moving screen that leveled Rajon Rondo, the Celtics had had enough. Enter Kendrick Perkins.
Perkins meandered over to Przybilla and made it known the cheap shots weren’t going to fly. From one enforcer to another, Perkins laid down the law.
“I just thought he was playing a little too dirty the whole game,” Perkins told the Boston Globe. “So I just told him to chill out with that. I wasn’t nothing. I was just telling him to chill out.”
You can’t quantify the results of that play. We’ll never know how big an effect Perk’s words had on the game. We’ll never know if his toe-to-toe chat with Przybilla set the Blazers on their heels for the rest of the game, or at least made them a little more hesitant to throw forearm shivers, a little more hesitant to attack the basket. But eventually, Perk’s return will solidify a well-known NBA truth that’s been persistent for the last four years: the Celtics are not a team to fuck with.
Granted, Przybilla probably wouldn’t stop being a dirty player if his own mother told him to chill out. (See: last night, when he stood over Kevin Garnett after knocking him to the ground.) I doubt Perk’s talk discouraged Przybilla from throwing the errant elbow or hip check. But in the long run, physical toughness matters. If Perk’s ever-scowling demeanor contributes to one opponent backing down every game, it’s worth it. It helps.
“He’s an enforcer,” Doc Rivers told reporters in Portland, according to WEEI. “Przybilla was trying to be physical and Perk’s going nowhere.”
You hear that, tough guys all around the NBA? Kendrick Perkins is back. And he’s going nowhere.