Kendrick Perkins can't describe first class — “words can't explain it” — but he knows it when he sees it.
Perkins found it in Thunderville.
Five days ago, Perkins sat in a Denver hotel room, that famous scowl replaced by tears, distraught by a trade from his beloved Celtics.
Now Perkins stands as the latest poster child for Oklahoma City's amazing basketball story, having signed a four-year contract extension that makes him a Thunder cornerstone through 2015.
“It kind of felt like the worst day of my life when I got traded from the C's,” Perkins said. “But when I got here ... everything just kind of blew me away. Overwhelming.”
Since the Thunder landed 32 months ago, its brass has vowed to run a first-class organization. In a no-frills city, run a franchise that makes elite ballplayers want to come and want to stay.
Lot of talk. Turns out, lot of substance.
All those dire predictions that NBA stars would avoid OKC like a dust bowl? All those warnings that any decent Thunder draftee would hightail it out of town at first chance? Hollow and empty.
The promises of Clay Bennett and Sam Presti have come true. Four years ago, Presti sold Bennett on building this kind of franchise. Now Kevin Durant has signed through 2016 and Perkins is on board through 2015, the latter perhaps for less than he could have earned on the open market.
If Samuel Dalembert can make $12.2 million this season, and Brendan Haywood will make $27 million over the next three years, what would a team pay a center who stares down Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol?
But Perkins was more than content to take OKC's offer of $32 million-and-change over the next four seasons, plus what amounted to a $2 million bonus the rest of this season.
“I'm a country boy,” Perkins said. “I'm from Beaumont, Texas. I didn't have a crazy number in mind.”
So what's all this first-class treatment everyone's talking about? Well, when pressed, Perkins said something about state of the art equipment, plus breakfast for the players when they arrive every morning and lunch when they leave.
But this can't be about an omelet station.
Oklahoma City is a great place but an acquired taste. If you didn't grow up here, you generally have to learn to love it. So how did Perkins get overwhelmed in four days?
“Being around our people, our community, being around Oklahoma City, that's a huge strength,” Presti said.
Perkins twice has mentioned the welcome he received at Will Rogers, when he was cheered walking through the airport Thursday night.
Hey, it's not like Perkins wasn't a hero in Boston. Beantown knows its basketball and loved its big man who cares more about winning than who gets the credit. But maybe walking through the terminal showed him he could be a hero elsewhere, too. Same with the ovation Perkins received before the Laker game Sunday; the 2008 NBA championship center said he got chills.
“May not seem like a lot, but it was a lot to me,” Perkins said. “It was really cool.”
The Thunder didn't have Perkins at hello, but it wasn't long thereafter. From the trade to the convoluted-but-quickly-turned contract offer to telling Perkins to rest easy and get that knee healthy before making his Thunder debut, the message has been consistent. Perkins is important to this franchise.
“The organization is first class,” Perkins said. “I'm impressed with everything ... how things are handled here. Great staff. Just unbelievable.”
It's nice to feel wanted. Big paychecks create that feeling, but so do personal touches. The Presti Plan soars.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.