ORLANDO, Fla. -- Kendrick Perkins is a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder today because patience lined up perfectly with the moment Boston knew it was in a bad spot.
Quality big men, especially those still in their mid-20s, rarely get traded. But the Thunder was able to capitalize when the suddenly cost-conscious Celtics realized they would have difficulty re-signing Perkins.
The Jeff Green/Nenad Krstic swap for Perkins/Nate Robinson then became a steal.
Boston is shelling out more than $80 million in player salaries this season. That's more than $20 million over the salary cap and more than $10 million above the luxury tax threshold.
The prospects of a lowered salary cap, and possibly a hard cap, in a renegotiated collective bargaining agreement quite likely would have prevented the Celtics from bringing back Perkins, an unrestricted free agent this summer. With a roster that includes a quartet of All-Stars in Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Boston's payroll is already upward of $70 million for next season.
Boston's bind was evident in the four-year $22 million extension it recently offered Perkins, a deal Perkins turned down because it would have been far below his market value.
There are other reasons. The Celtics have a pair of O'Neal's, Shaquille and Jermaine, on the roster, so size isn't a problem. And Boston perhaps figured it would need more versatility for another postseason series against teams such as Miami, Chicago and San Antonio rather than a surplus of size for potential matchups with teams like Orlando and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Add it all up, and Perkins became Boston's sacrificial lamb, shipped to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder's long-awaited legitimate center.
But the blockbuster began to crystallize for the Thunder back in the fall.
When Oklahoma City couldn't reach an agreement with Green on an extension to his rookie deal before the Nov. 1 deadline, Green became trade bait. And while the Thunder's front office loved Green's skill set and professionalism, the continued emergence of Serge Ibaka made Green an increasingly intriguing pawn in the search for a bona fide big man.
What's more, the Thunder faced the risk of losing Green altogether in free agency next summer. Green will be a restricted free agent, which would have given the Thunder the right to match any offer. But had another team laid out a high-dollar deal, it would have been the Thunder that was in the bad spot.
Either OKC would have had to decline to match and lose Green or match and flirt with the even more detrimental reality of overpaying for his services. The latter option could have restricted the franchise's ability to lock up Ibaka, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
It's still unknown how far apart the Thunder and Green's camp were in negotiations. But Thursday's trade is a good indication that management had real questions about whether the team could keep him.
When the opportunity to add a player of Perkins' caliber came along, the deal became a no-brainer.