Dec 25, 2011; Oklahoma City OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins (5) fights for position against Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Kendrick Perkins: OKC Thunder chasing a ring, not Los Angeles Lakers

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Kendrick Perkins isn’t as fast as everyone else to crown the Los Angeles Lakers as Western Conference favorites now that they have Dwight Howard.

Perkins, who always has played Howard as well as anyone, was asked what he thought about the Howard trade.

“I just said it’s time to go to work,” Perkins told The Oklahoman. “I knew the hype was going to be over there on that end and all that. But I’m glad the attention is off us because we’re the type that likes to put our hard hats on and do stuff and keep it under the radar. And at the end of the day, when you look at the box score, Oklahoma won. That’s the way we like to keep it.”

Perkins and the Thunder beat the Lakers soundly in five games last year in the second round of the playoffs. That Lakers team featured Andrew Bynum at center and not Howard but Perkins still believes the Thunder have earned the right to be remembered as the class of the Western Conference.

“We are the Western Conference champs,” Perkins said. “So at the end of the day, we’re not chasing nobody except for the ring. We’re chasing Miami to get a championship. It’s no guarantee who is going to be where. But we earned the Western champs so we’re not chasing the Lakers, we’re chasing a championship and that’s what it’s about.”

The Thunder may be chasing a ring and not the Lakers but L.A. is likely to be standing in their way of that quest for a ring at some point in the playoffs next year. It seems inevitable that the Thunder and Lakers will meet in the Western Conference Finals next season to see which team will challenge the defending champion Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

The Lakers got a lot better this offseason but matching up with the Thunder will still be a tough thing for them. OKC’s Big 3 should be able to still get theirs despite Howard now patrolling the paint and the Thunder are the best equipped team to play Howard one-on-one.

Perkins’ value may be most evident this upcoming season if the Thunder have to play the Lakers in the playoffs. Perkins was a liability when he was on the floor vs. the Spurs and Heat last year but now he will get a chance to make up for that by being the Dwight-stopper that he has proven in the past he is capable of.

Perkins went on to talk about his job as the team’s starting center.

“We’re all teammates, but at the end of the day, the center position over here is mine and that’s the way we’re going to keep it,” Perkins said. “Any other way, backup minutes or whatever they want to go about, that’s their problem. Once I hit the court, I’m going to make it known — and it’s going to be known — that that’s mine. It’s no beef, but at the end of the day, that’s what it is.”

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