Berry Tramel

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Thunder: Does Jeff Green regret not signing?

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 27, 2013 at 3:37 pm •  Published: March 2, 2011

Kendrick Perkins signed a contract extension with the Thunder before the smoke cleared on his trade from Boston. That’s close to a literal statement. Traded at mid-day Thursday, signed Monday night. I didn’t even know contract negotiations could be consummated that quickly anymore.

Meanwhile, Jeff Green looks lost in Boston. I’ve watched much of his two Celtic games, and Nenad Krstic has been Boston’s shining light of that deal. Green looks tentative. I think Green will be OK. He’s a good ballplayer and a solid guy.

Oklahoma City's Jeff Green during the Thunder - Grizzlies game Saturday, January 8, 2011 at the Oklahoma City Arena. Photo by Hugh Scott, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Jeff Green during the Thunder - Grizzlies game Saturday, January 8, 2011 at the Oklahoma City Arena. Photo by Hugh Scott, The Oklahoman

But as he ponders his future, I wonder if he regrets not signing a contract extension with the Thunder?

The same kind of contract extension bestowed upon Perkins was offered to Green. I don’t know how close the money was, but I’d guess pretty close. Maybe a little less, since centers can command bigger paychecks.

Perkins, for example, could have received more money on the open market. But he chose security and familiarity. Not familiarity as in he knows the back roads to downtown, but familiarity as in he knows what he’s getting into. A thriving franchise with a young core that has a chance to win big. A place that he had heard was first class and three days in was convinced of it.

Free agency is a fascinating topic. Is it always about money? Usually. Often. Most of the time. But not always.

I don’t know how Sam Presti talked to Jeff Green during contract negotiations, but before the trade I was thinking about writing a column about Green. And here’s what I was going to say.

Jeff, you’ve got a decision to make. You can go out on the open market and make a lot of money. I’ll bet someone will give you $10 million a year, and you might be a star. Go to Toronto or Milwaukee or someplace, and you’ll average 22 points a game. And you’re likely to play 55 irrelevant games a year.

Or you can take the Thunder offer, remain one of the core players in a remarkable story, with a chance to win big. No guarantees, of course, but the future looks promising. You won’t be a star. Kevin Durant has the biggest name on the marquee, and no one saw Russell Westbrook coming. You’ll be the No. 3 man. I don’t know if that works for you or not. But No. 3 men do all right for themselves. Manu Ginobili, Lamar Odom, Ray Allen.

I don’t know if you like it here, Jeff, but if you do, don’t discount that. You won’t like all places. I assume you feel a bond with all these fellow young guys. Don’t discount that. There are some NBA locker rooms you don’t want any part of.

You get to decide. Money and fame can be found in greater commodities elsewhere. But security and comfort can be found here. You get to choose.

That’s what I would have told Jeff Green. Of course, with the trade deadline looming, Sam Presti chose. Faced with the chance to get the center of his dreams — remember, Sam’s a little funky — Presti pulled the trigger. And still didn’t want to do it. Still teared up talking about Jeff Green. Still talked about the hardest decision he ever had to make.

during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma CIty Thunder and Utah Jazz in the Oklahoma City Arena on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma CIty Thunder and Utah Jazz in the Oklahoma City Arena on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

I don’t know if Green wanted to stay in OKC and was just trying to get as much money as possible. If so, he misplayed it. If he really wanted to be here and stay a musketeer with Durant and Westbrook, he should have signed the extension.

The Thunder can’t afford both Perkins and Green. That window has closed.

Had Green signed, the Thunder would have gone shopping in the off-season for a center below Perkins’ level. Heck, Krstic might have stuck around and the Thunder would have been chasing a championship with the unconventional method of offense.

But Green decided to wait, Perkins decided to sign and the Thunder course is set.

Presti on Tuesday used the catch phrases. “Great fit. Core group. The things he takes seriously are things we take seriously.”

Truth is, the Thunder is better off with Perkins than with Green. “I’m not going to make any promises,” Perkins said. “I know we’re going to be good. But whether we can be great, that’s on us.”

That’s exactly the kind of attitude Presti admires.

And still, the Thunder thought enough of Green and believed in him enough that it was willing to forge ahead with him. So long as he signed.

“We’re not going to be the best fit for everybody, and everybody’s not going to be the best fit for us,” Presti said.

I don’t know if the Thunder was the best fit for Green, or he just played chicken and lost.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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