The Thunder’s All-Star duo was already on the court putting in work.
Perkins knew right then this is where he wanted to be.
And on Monday night, four days after he was acquired from Boston, Perkins committed to cementing himself as the franchise’s cornerstone center, agreeing to a four-year extension that will keep him with the Thunder through the 2014-15 season. The exact terms of the deal are unclear. But for the second time this season, the Thunder worked creatively within the salary cap rules to ink Perkins to a deal that exceeds $30 million, at least $8 million more in total salary than a offer from the Celtics that Perkins recently turned down. Yahoo! Sports, citing unnamed sources, reports the deal is for $34.8 million including bonuses.
When the Thunder acquired Perkins and Nate Robinson from Boston in exchange for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and a future first-round pick, the team assumed the risk of not re-signing Perkins. Getting a deal done now, however, eliminates the chance of Perkins leaving the Thunder as an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Following that first practice over the weekend, Perkins told media members at his introductory press conference that his desire was to be in Oklahoma City for “the long haul.”
“I hope I can be here,” Perkins said. “I (want to) be here. I couldn’t find a better situation for myself. I really want to be here. It’s just a great organization.”
The Thunder was able to grant Perkins’ wish through strategically structuring a more lucrative deal than Boston could have presented under league rules.
Following a second deadline deal that sent Morris Peterson and D.J. White to Charlotte in exchange for center Nazr Mohammed, Oklahoma City moved roughly $2 million below the $58 million salary cap. That then allowed the Thunder to renegotiate Perkins’ current deal, essentially using that additional space to give Perkins a $2 million raise this season.
With league rules limiting the first year of extensions to 110.5 percent of the final year of a player’s previous deal, the Thunder had a higher starting point from which to work.
Under those terms, Perkins’ current salary would balloon from $4.4 million to $6.4 and make the first year of his new deal worth slightly more than $7.1 million, with 10.5 percent raises through the 2014-15 season.
OKC ironed out a similar deal with veteran forward Nick Collison in November. With more than $6 million of room in salary cap space, the Thunder renegotiated Collison’s deal to give him a raise using most of the remaining space, as well as an additional guaranteed four years for just more than $11 million.
Because league rules state that teams cannot renegotiate contracts between March 1 and June 30, the Thunder had finalize a deal with Perkins by Monday night.
“We had a unique opportunity to enter into discussions with Kendrick to solidify his future with our organization,” said Thunder general manager Sam Presti in a statement. “We are pleased to know that he will be a part of our core group now and in the future. Kendrick’s blue-collar, team-first approach aligns with the vision we hold for building a sustainable team in the Oklahoma City community.”
It’s Perkins’ hard-working mentality that drew the Thunder to the 6-10 center. Not only is Perkins widely considered the league’s best low-post defender, but he also has built a reputation of having a willingness to do the little things it takes to win. With the Thunder, Perkins is expected to stick to his role of defending, rebounding and setting solid screens while Durant and Westbrook pour in the points.
With Perkins, 26, on board, the Thunder now moves closer to its desired destination of being a perennial power in the Western Conference. Durant and Westbrook are only 22, and key second-year contributors Serge Ibaka and James Harden are still only 21.