Even though the Thunder’s hulking center has a reputation for toughness on the court that sometimes mimics his terrifying countenance, off the court he’s turned into a bit of a mentor for the Oklahoma City Thunder. This current Thunder team might be perennial championship contenders out of the West, but they’re also still in their salad days, and Kendrick Perkins‘ defense and toughness in the paint isn’t the only attribute he brings to their squad.
The Thunder are the darlings of the NBA. After going further and further in the playoffs each season behind a nucleus that’s still pretty young, both the people of Oklahoma City and NBA fans at large have latched on to the superstar-laden duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Sure, the Beard is gone to Houston, replaced by the ugly, yet efficient, shot of Kevin Martin, but the team’s age still slants millennial, and that can sometimes cause problems.
The Thunder possess the greatest scorer in the last 20 years in Kevin Durant, and a point guard that’s averaging close to 20 shot attempts a game (actually, Russell is down to 17.9 this season after jacking over 19 a game last year). Since a combination of age and an often lopsided offense can sometimes bruise the egos of those involved (those players not named Durant or Westbrook), the Thunder’s perpetually grimacing big man at center, Perkins, has taken on the role of team shrink/mentor. Feeling left out on offense? Just give Perk a call!
Perkins told Y! Sports that after a game has concluded, he has to prepare himself to assuage the hurt feelings of those teammates not getting the ball, or not feeling like a part of the team. These feelings are expressed during late night phone calls with Perk.
“I get phone calls at all hours of the night from different teammates, and I’ve got to tell them: ‘OK, you didn’t get yours tonight but…’
“So OK, take Serge [Ibaka]. I’ll tell him, ‘OK man, you got seven points tonight, then you need to go get eight blocks. Some nights it’s not going to be your night, where you can touch the ball.’ It’s like that on this team, especially when you’ve got scorers like Russ, K.D. and Kevin Martin leading the league in scoring.”
Perk continued about his off-the-court role with the young’ns of Oklahoma City:
“The game ends, you go home, take an hour break and then I know it’s mentoring time. Guys are gonna call.”
This might sound strange coming from an organization like Oklahoma City that prides itself on its selfless goal of team, but no matter what NBA roster you’re looking at, guys are gonna be unhappy when they’re not contributing like they think they can. With James Harden leaving right before the regular season started, the onus to step up and fill the void left by his absence on offense has led to some ruffled feathers. When players, like their still-developing big man Ibaka, don’t get as many looks as they feel they should, it’s been left to Perkins to play the buffer or diplomat with the team and the player.
There’s been a lot of talk about how maybe Oklahoma City could have afforded Harden’s max deal if they’d amnestied Kendrick Perkins’ contract. He’s set to make close to $30 million combined over this season and the next two. But sometimes a player’s value isn’t just limited to what he can do on the court. Perkins’ time in Boston, where he won a title in 2008, offers him a unique perspective on the game, and the authority to back up what he says.
Perk might ramble on about how Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen amended their games to co-exist together in Boston, but those are words players will listen to and learn from. The Celtics’ unselfishness from their superstars was the primary reason they were so successful during Perkins’ time, and he understands that and tries to preach that same philosophy to his young Thunder cohorts.
Maybe Kendrick Perkins is a little slow getting up and down the floor (he’s moving better this year without that groin trouble ); maybe the primary reason the Thunder have hung on to him, at least to outsiders, is to battle against Dwight Howard come playoff time. But he’s also the team’s late night sounding board for disaffected teammates, and you can’t discount that when assessing a team’s makeup. We know GM Sam Presti and coach Scott Brooks would prefer to get their eight hours of shuteye rather than listen to frustrated players. Well, Perkins is there instead to pick up the phone and talk, and it’s hard to put a price tag on that bit of teamwork. Hopefully, Perkins has an unlimited cell phone plan.
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