Kendrick Perkins does things that don't show up in the box score.
How many times have we heard that?
It's long been the Thunder's counter argument in defense of its starting center's subpar statistics.
But that logic is running out of rope after three straight seasons of plummeting production from Perkins. By almost every measure, this year was the worst season of Perk's career.
And nobody seems to have an answer as to why.
Is it the rash of injuries and mounting surgeries?
“I don't want to blame it on that,” Perk said, “because I always feel like if I'm out there I should be able to get the job done.”
Is the Thunder so talented that it couldn't use a steady stream of points, rebounds and blocked shots from Perk?
“With us, we don't need the scoring,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We need his toughness. We need his defense. We need his ability to guard.”
But why can't Perkins be a stat sheet stuffer?
Why can't he provide the most basic plays from his position next season?
Because we now know Perkins will in fact be back next season. Thunder general manager Sam Presti recently put to rest any and all doubts over whether Perkins will be waived under the league's amnesty clause. So that ship — at least for this summer — has sailed.
At this point it's more productive to focus on how Perk can come back better.
The Thunder is on the hook for two more seasons of a contract with Perkins that once seemed like a sweetheart deal. He's owed roughly $19 million over the next two years and appears entrenched as the starter; partly because that's such a sizable salary, partly because the Thunder doesn't have a better option, partly because Brooks is hesitant to change a lineup that has had so much success and partly because Perk does indeed still make a positive impact.
Another year of dwindling production, however, and Perk's good might no longer outweigh his bad. Brooks already has become more judicious with Perk's minutes, decreasing his average playing time in each of the past three postseasons.
It reached a head when, in Game 6 against Houston, Brooks, for the first time, replaced Perkins to start the third quarter after it had become clear that the Thunder's big lineup was being outperformed by the Rockets' small lineup.
Only time will tell whether the trend of diminishing minutes is a sign of things to come or something that will drive Perkins to play better.
“When we had everybody whole, he was a big part of what we do,” Brooks said. “Going forward, I expect that to be the same.”
Perkins said he wants to rebound better and block more shots next season. He averaged just six rebounds this year. His 8.6 rebounds per 36 minutes were 0.1 shy of tying his career low.
“As far as rebounding, I can do a better job on that,” Perkins said. “As far as blocking shots, I definitely cannot just put it all on Serge (Ibaka). I can do a better job and get back to that two-block-a-game type range.”
Because the Thunder had the second most efficient offense in the regular season, Perkins' flaws on that end were overlooked, if not ignored.
Yet just three years ago, back in Boston, Perkins proved he can finish with the best of them. He averaged 10.1 points on 60.2 percent shooting.
“On this team, that's not my role,” Perkins said of scoring. “I don't know if averaging 10 points on this team is what I need to do.”
The total is irrelevant. Consistency is what matters. Quality must trump quantity.
Perkins averaged 4.2 points, his lowest amount since his second season, but shot a career-low 45.7 percent. He connected on just 49.7 percent of his shots from within five feet.
Those issues have forced the Thunder to lean more on Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant for low-post scoring.
Some big men would see it as a slight.
Perk is at peace with it.
“I'm cool with that. I'm cool with who I am,” Perkins said. “I been in the league for 10 years. Doc Rivers told me about seven years ago, he called me into his office and said ‘Just be who you are. You could be in the NBA for a long time just being who you are.' So at the end of the day I just do what I do, and I take pride in what I do. It is what it is.”
Kendrick Perkins' 2012-13 season by the numbers
-0.6: Player Efficiency Rating in the postseason. The first time in playoff history that a player who logged at least 200 minutes finished with a negative rating.
2.2: Postseason scoring average.
3.7: Postseason rebounding average.
4.2: Regular season scoring average.
6.0: Regular season rebounding average.
8.2: Player Efficiency Rating in the regular season. The league average is 15.
12: Technical fouls, one less than he had the previous year.
15: Season-high rebounds, set March 20 at Memphis.
17: Season-high points, set against Phoenix on Feb. 8.
25.1: Minutes per game, the fewest he's averaged since joining the Thunder.
.457: Field goal percentage, a career low.