Sam Presti sat Kendrick Perkins down for his exit interview on Thursday and showed the center clips of his old self before he busted up both of his knees.
The footage was incredible.
Perkins saw himself running the floor, catching passes on the move and finishing plays with power, patrolling the paint and swatting shots mercilessly.
Presti, the team's general manager, was sending a simple message.
“He just told me that we're going to get you back to that point and even better,” Perkins said.
That's become the main offseason goal for Perkins, the Thunder's 6-foot-10 center who became a polarizing player in Oklahoma City following the mid-season trade that shipped Jeff Green to Boston. Some fans have called Perkins a bust. During the playoffs, national television analysts even called the deal a mistake by the Thunder.
Many forgot Perkins was far from 100 percent. He tore the ACL in his right knee in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals last June but returned to basketball on Jan. 25, ahead of schedule. Perkins then sprained his left knee on Feb. 22 and missed another three weeks.
When the Thunder acquired Perkins two days later, then gave him a four-year, $34.8 million extension four days after that, expectations shot through the roof. And Perkins, at times, let plenty down.
“We knew at the time we made the trade that he was not going to be 100 percent,” Presti said. “But he was on pace, and he's done all the work. I think a summer is really going to help him.”
Perkins didn't hesitate to label his performance this season a disappointment.
“I'd probably give myself a D, just because I know what I was capable of doing,” Perkins said when asked to evaluate his season.
Perkins averaged 5.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 25.2 minutes in 17 regular season with the Thunder, pretty decent production from a guy who isn't a stat stuffer. In the playoffs, those figures dipped to 4.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 0.8 blocks despite logging three more minutes per night.
But Perkins' erratic effectiveness was more significant than any statistical measure.
He lumbered on the court. He missed assignments. He no longer could finish plays with rim-rocking dunks offensively or rescue his teammates with rejections defensively.
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