Monday Bolts – 2.6.12

A terrific feature from Baxter Holmes of the L.A. Times on Perk: “Through Friday, Perkins ranked 186th in the NBA in scoring (4.8 points a game) and 60th in rebounding (5.5 a game). The only clear way to gauge Perkins’ value? Wins and losses. (Quaint, no?) And since the NBA-best 18-4 Thunder acquired him in a trade with Boston in February 2011, its record is 31-8. “If you didn’t watch our games, you wouldn’t know how important he is to our team,” Durant says. Even if you watch, you have to pay attention, because while Perkins is easy to spot, the way he changes games isn’t. Each time an opposing big man is having an “off night,” notice the defender hounding him on every shot and rebound. Each time a Thunder player endures a hard foul, notice the refrigerator-sized teammate who levels the accused opponent. And each time Durant, Russell Westbrook or James Harden curls around a screen and finds an acre of wide-open shooting space, notice the equilibrium-rattling pick that set him free.”

Marc Stein of ESPN.com has Westbrook as a West reserve: “The unflattering reviews of Westbrook’s quarterback play from early in the season are gradually starting to fade. Like a lot of us, I’d still prefer to see Kevin Durant playing alongside a more pass-minded point guard, but Westbrook is inching away from his defiant approach and is back to being OKC’s best player some nights. Which means his second straight selection to the West All-Stars is just a formality.”

George Karl on if OKC has separated from the pack: “I don’t know yet. I haven’t played OKC. They look pretty good. The close games. They win close games with two guys who can make shots. their defense is first class at the end of games. Their home court is big time. They are a lot of things that say they have a fabric, a fiber of the real stuff to be special. I thought we played them a pretty good series last year. Even though everybody says we got beat 4 out of 5. But 4 of those games were last two minutes games and two of them were determined by a call as much as they were determined by a closer. Unfortunately we didn’t get either one of those calls.”

Seattle is working towards a new arena.

Russell Westbrook is a “no-brainer” All-Star pick from one writer.

SB Nation power rankings: “The Thunder have been pretty incredible, and look like the clear favorite in the West, just as everyone predicted. Kevin Durant should finish top-three in MVP voting, James Harden’s name might already be etched in the Sixth Man Trophy and Russell Westbrook is on his way to another All-NBA bid.”

NBA.com power rankings: “The Thunder’s position at the top of the West got a little less comfortable with road losses to the Clippers and Spurs last week. Their perimeter defense allowed Chris Paul and Tony Parker to combine for 68 points and 23 assists and the opponents to shoot 25-for-48 from 3-point range in the two games.”

Stein dropped OKC big time in his rankings: “Chicago and Indiana have passed the Thunder in the race for most road wins, but OKC has bigger worries. Specifically: Perk has nine techs in 23 games. Which means he’s on pace for 26 in this shortened season. Which computes to seven one-game suspensions. Which is far, far worse than getting Mozgoved by Blake.”

Mike Tokito of the Oregonian: “The early success this season continues the Thunder’s ascension since 2007-08, when in their final season as the Seattle SuperSonics, they finished with a 20-62 record. The rise, under the guidance of general manager Sam Presti, was accomplished through a combination of smart drafting, roster moves and salary cap management, as well as a healthy dose of good luck and timing.”

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