BOSTON Kendrick Perkins is back, looking skinny as ever.
The body might look different, but Perkins is still Perkins.
And his play has been one of the keys to the Oklahoma City Thunder once again holding their own as one of the NBA's elite teams.
His numbers this season - 4.2 points and 4.6 rebounds - don't come close to speaking to the impact he has had on the Thunder who advanced to the NBA Finals a year ago.
"What he does day-in and day-out is perfect for what we need," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "He's not a guy ... we're not going to go to him and say, 'Perk we need 12 points tonight.' He has to continue to bring that toughness, bring that spirit of competition every night and he does it. He does so many good things for us. Every good team needs a guy like Perk."
While Perkins would love to see his numbers improve this season, he understands that doing the dirty work that often goes unnoticed, is vital to his team winning.
"It's definitely hard," Perkins said. "It takes sacrificing. But at the end of the day, I'm trying to win. I know my numbers aren't where they need to be, but at the end of the day ... some games I might take eight, nine shots. Some games I may take none. But at the end of the day, it's about winning. I just try to find differnt ways to get involved."
Like setting screens which has been part of the high-scoring play of Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook.
"Perk is never going to have big stats," said C's head coach Doc Rivers. "That's not why you have Perk on your team. He just does a lot of other things. You can't put a number on identity or perception, but there is a number. Perk gives that team that."
Much of what folks praise Perkins for, are lessons learned from his playing days with Kevin Garnett.
"Kevin has an influence on everybody," Rivers said. "I thought he really helped Perk, not only on the floor but off the floor, being a professional. Game preparation, there's nobody better in our league than Kevin and now you hear Perk does the same stuff."
Even though they no longer play together, Perkins still calls on Garnett from time to time for advice.
"KG's my mentor, so I'm always going to call him and ask him about the game and stuff like that," Perkins said. "I know he's going to come out and try and take my head off. We'll be cool after the game, but I know what it is."
Perkins, about as candid a player as you'll find in the NBA, makes no secret about coming into tonight's game looking to make a point.
"You always have this certain type of chip on your shoulder being traded," Perkins said. "You always want to come out and show them what you missed. That's what it is."
But balancing that with playing against guys he's still very close to - he and Rajon Rondo still talk everyday - does make these games tougher for him than others.
"It's hard mentally," Perkins said. "You have to get mentally ready just to go against some of my brothers over there, but it's hard. But at the same time, I know they're going to come out and try and win the game like we're gonna try and win the game. At the end of the day, it's a lot of love and respect on both ends. I'm glad we're in different conferences so that if we have to meet up in the playoffs, it would be the (NBA) Finals."