Perkins gets back to finals 2 years after injury
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By JEFF LATZKE
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Kendrick Perkins' last appearance in the NBA Finals came to a bitter end.
After suffering a devastating knee injury in Game 6 of the 2010 finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, Perkins had to watch as his Boston Celtics lost their chance to win a second championship in three years in Game 7.
He returned to play just a dozen more games with Boston after recovering from torn ligaments in his right knee, then was dealt to Oklahoma City at last year's trade deadline.
"I always think about it like `What if?' but we're just going to go out there and play hard, do what I need to do, play my role for the squad and I think the rest will take care of itself," Perkins said. "We've got enough players on this team to get the job done.
"But it (does) feel like unfinished business because I never thought I'd get back to this place so soon - within a year and a half."
Until the trade, Boston had been the only team Perkins played for over the first 7 1/2 seasons of his career. He was originally drafted by Memphis and then traded to the Celtics.
"At the moment, it was difficult because you never know what you're getting into. For myself, I grew up around a whole group of guys. I was there for eight years and that was the only place I knew," Perkins said. "Once I got here, it kind of went out the window the way everybody welcomed me with open arms. Just that the team was excited about winning, I fit in right from the jump."
After growing up as one of the younger players on Boston's veteran-laden roster, the 27-year-old is among the older players for Oklahoma City. He marveled while watching the NBA draft combine recently that it's going on 10 years since he entered the league in the 2003 draft straight out of high school.
"The first couple trips, I kind of took it for granted. I was around and walking to the gym, it was like, `Oh, it's just another playoff game. I could get here again,'" Perkins said. "No, it ain't like that. I got hurt and realized that you've got to take advantage of the opportunity. It's the biggest stage in basketball. I do take it more serious."
Durant played all 48 minutes of regulation for the first time this season while James only came out for the final 28 seconds - after the game was comfortably in hand with Miami up by 12.
So, who needs rest?
"He loves to play. Kevin wants to play all the time. ... I usually take him out for 4 or 5 minutes per half and sometimes he takes it as a benching and he doesn't understand that he needs the rest so he can go be ready to play the last 8 minutes," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "We'll play him as long as he can play at a high level with good energy."
Brooks had said after Oklahoma City beat San Antonio in Game 6 that he wasn't going to take Durant out no matter how many tired looks he witnessed.
For Miami's Erik Spoelstra, it was the opposite.
"To be fair, the last game he was not coming out," Spoelstra said with a laugh. "He had a look on his face where there's no way I could have said, `Hey, sit on the bench,' even for a couple minutes."
James averaged a career-low 37 1/2 minutes per game during the regular season but the time for conserving energy is over now.
"You get to this point, we have 12 days left, I know he has the mentality that he'll do whatever it takes," Spoelstra said. "And so, I want him fresh. So I'll work to try to get him some rest."
BOSH TO THE BENCH: All-Star forward Chris Bosh continued to come off the Heat bench, just as he has done since coming back from an abdominal injury during the conference finals.
Bosh had started every game he played in during the regular season and playoffs until he was hurt during the East semifinals.
Spoelstra kept whether Bosh would start a secret as long as he could before the game.
"I'd be willing to tell Oklahoma City. I don't think it's a competitive advantage," Spoelstra said. "Just one of the few times that hopefully we can control a little bit of the noise out there, we don't have to get into the debate about the pluses or minuses about it before the game. The guys can just focus in, get into their iPads and focus on the game."
"It will be fun. I always wish the best for him, but now, you want to win," Cole said. "It's great that both of us can be here and represent Dayton Dunbar, but now we have to go our separate ways, just for this week or two."
Cook was one year ahead of Cole and both stayed in state to go to college.
Cook spent just one season at Ohio State, making it to the national championship game alongside Greg Oden and Mike Conley, and is already in his fifth year in the NBA.
Cole is just now a rookie, after completing his senior year at Cleveland State last year.
Over time, Cole has sought advice and encouragement from a high-school pal he always respected.
"He was a very unselfish player. He was the man in high school - the best player that I'd seen while I was in high school," Cole said.
LIL WAYNE: After much ado, Lil Wayne finally got to see an NBA playoff game in Oklahoma City.
The rapper caused a stir during the Western Conference finals when he posted on Twitter that the Thunder wouldn't let him into their arena, with the team saying simply that he needed to buy tickets if he wanted to come.
Then Lil Wayne then said he felt "unwanted" in Oklahoma City after the episode, even though Durant and James Harden had offered him tickets.
This time, Thunder spokesman Dan Mahoney said the rapper bought his pair of courtside seats.
He sat in the front row across from the Heat bench, wearing a black shirt instead of the free blue T-shirt given out to fans.
Updated June 12, 2012