And it’s a lot of the reason Serge Ibaka has taken such a leap the past few weeks: He has a mentor. A big, scary, mean mentor teaching him how to play with an edge.
The impression Kendrick Perkins has made on Ibaka has been obvious. Much in the same way that Kevin Garnett schooled Perk in the ways of nasty, physical, intimidating play, Perkins has begun to impart that same wisdom on Ibaka.
When he was in Boston, Perkins was the younger guy playing center next to one of the all-time power forwards in league history, and next to one of the most intense, amped-up defenders the game has ever seen.
Garnett, an emotional leader, makes an impact on the court not just with his play, but how he holds players accountable. Perkins played three-plus seasons of his seven total with Garnett, and the difference Garnett made on Perk in those last couple was evident. Perkins has become one of the league’s most feared enforcers, someone not to be trifled with in the paint.
He’s brought that same mentality with him from Beantown to Oklahoma City. He’s the Thunder’s Big Ticket, and more importantly, the KG to the young 21-year-old power forward from the Congo.
Perk isn’t shy about getting on to his teammates when they screw up or don’t live up to the defensive standard the Thunder plays by. With Ibaka being his frontcourt partner in crime, Perk doesn’t let Serge get away with anything.
He’s going to find an added nastiness to his game.
Against the Wizards in Perkins’ first game, after Ibaka failed to contest an easy attempt at the rim, Perk fouled the Washington player, preventing an easy basket. Immediately, No. 5 was in No. 9’s face, letting him know about his missed assignment.
Between Perkins and Ibaka, OKC now features one of the league’s most intimidating frontlines. Ibaka is a rover, hovering around, looking to swat anything near the rim. Perkins is the big defensive tackle, taking on blockers and allowing Ibaka to patrol. With the way they play off each other and seem to have great chemistry, they remind me of The Bash Brothers from “D2: The Mighty Ducks.”
Perkins has brought a lot to the Thunder. He’s a great defender, a terrific rebounder and a smart veteran who’s experienced what it takes to win a championship. But he may give the Thunder a little bonus in building our power forward of the future.
With Perk in his ear nightly, Ibaka’s going to develop in a whole new way. He’s going to find an added nastiness to his game. It’s the type of things that can set players apart.
The more time they get, they might bring a lot more than just an edge to Oklahoma City.
Young is founder of DailyThunder.com.