Kendrick Perkins sat down for his season-ending interview with reporters Thursday and was told, to his surprise, that he was sweating.
“Well I just left out of Sam's office so I might be sweating,” Perkins said of his exit interview with Thunder general manager Sam Presti.
“That was a joke,” Perkins immediately added.
The Thunder's polarizing center has nothing to worry about.
Two days later, Presti essentially put an end to the rampant speculation that Perkins would possibly be waived under the NBA's amnesty clause.
“We just haven't considered using the provision,” Presti said. “I wouldn't necessarily directly attribute that to any player on our team. Every team looks at the amnesty provision different based on their different circumstances. But it's not something that we've really explored.”
When pressed, Presti went on to praise Perkins.
“We think Perk has a lot of value to our team,” Presti said. “He's a member of a team that won 60 games and helped us to our third division title in three years. I don't know that we can discount that. I'm sure he'd like to have had a better postseason. But I'm sure that's pretty universal for the whole group. And we accept that.”
The amnesty clause is a provision in the league's new collective bargaining agreement that allows each team a one-time opportunity to waive a player whose contract was signed prior to July 1, 2011. Any team that exercises that clause must still pay the player his full salary, but that contract would no longer count against the team's salary cap or potential tax payment.
Perkins will earn roughly $18.6 million over the next two seasons, a salary that at this point surpasses his production. Perkins averaged 2.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.5 blocks while playing 19.1 minutes in the Thunder's 11 postseason games. They were his lowest playoff averages since his postseason debut in his second season, a year in which Perkins' statistics were only marginally worse despite averaging just 4.7 minutes.
“He's somewhat of an easy target because of his stats,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He's never going to be a statistical guy. He brings toughness. He brings experience. He brings things that help you win. He makes winning basketball plays. Did he have good moments in the playoffs? He had some. He had some not so good. What he does with our team, he helps us win games. When we had everybody whole, he was a big part of what we do. Going forward, I expect that to be the same.”
When starting point guard Russell Westbrook sustained a season-ending knee injury, nearly every Thunder player's production eventually dipped. Perkins looked the worst. He ended the playoff run with as many turnovers (24) as points. By the end of the Thunder's second-round series against Memphis, Perkins had compiled the worst plus-minus of anyone. He finished a minus-40, meaning the Grizzlies outscored the Thunder by 40 points when Perkins was on the floor.
Numbers like that look especially bad when the five-game series was decided by only 24 combined points. Not to mention Perkins' specialty is defending post players like the Grizzlies' tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Although Perkins' defense on Gasol was largely solid — Perkins forced Gasol into taking scores of contested jump shots — the box score disparity was disturbing. Gasol averaged 19.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.8 blocked shots in the series. Randolph averaged 18.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists in the series, the last two games being his best despite Perkins primarily defending him.
To top it off, Perkins set the Internet on fire when it was revealed that he finished with the worst PER, or player efficiency rating, in playoff history. His minus-0.7 PER was the first time a player who logged at least 200 minutes has ever finished with a negative rating. The rating, however, largely is a measure of offensive performance and doesn't take into account a player's defensive impact beyond blocked shots and steals.
The Thunder, though, is sticking by Perkins. The team believes Perkins' character and past success is more indicative than a bad stretch of what the organization actually has.