Roughly a year ago, at the last trade deadline, he was as surprised as anyone when he changed uniforms, to the delight of almost no one in Boston. But in so many ways, Kendrick Perkins is in a different place.
He was almost in tears when the Celtics sent him to Oklahoma City but in hindsight, “Danny (Ainge) might have done me a favor,” he said.
That’s because Perkins knows what’s coming in Boston, and by contrast, what might be coming in Oklahoma City. The Thunder is leading the West and is the semi-favorite to at least reach the NBA Finals. The Celtics? Does the dismantling begin next week at the trade deadline, or wait until this summer?
“This is a good team, a good group of guys,” said Perkins. “I couldn’t have landed in a better spot, to be honest.”
He was traded for Jeff Green, who was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm in December, putting his career on hold. Perkins signed a generous contract extension with the Thunder and discovered that Oklahoma City “reminds me of Texas, where I’m from.” Although Perkins’ numbers have been mild, his true value will be determined in the playoffs, which depend more on half-court play and defense; that’s why the Thunder made the deal.
Meanwhile, the Celtics are a rather pedestrian 34-29 since the Perkins trade. They received a jolt of pride with a thrilling overtime victory over the Knicks on Sunday but the vibe is likely to be short-lived. The signs can’t be ignored. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are approaching old age and free agency; the Knicks and Sixers bring more youth and momentum in the Atlantic Division and Rajon Rondo‘s name continues to surface in trade rumors, legit or not.
“I can tell you that he doesn’t care about that,” Perkins said. “He really doesn’t. He just plays. He’s like that. Maybe being mentioned (in trades) would effect other guys, but he just shows up and plays.”
The Knicks and Jeremy Lin discovered as much after Rondo dropped a wicked triple-double, as Dan Duggan of the Boston Herald writes:
According to [Kevin] Garnett, the performance wasn’t a total surprise. A nationally televised matchup with much-hyped Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin amid the swirling trade rumors is a recipe for a monster game from Rondo, who has 17 career triple-doubles.
“The thing about Lin is I think everybody who’s at the point guard position is going to be excited to play the kid,” Garnett said. “(Rondo) was nothing short of that today. I could see it. I could tell. I’ve been around him to know when he’s motivated and when he’s more than motivated. Tonight was one of those nights.”
Surely, Ainge would love to borrow Garnett’s superpower. As Ainge charts the franchise’s future he must determine whether to keep the uniquely talented Rondo as the centerpiece or trade him for a more stable presence.
“The trade talks really is a good motivating factor for him,” Garnett said. “If you know Rondo, he’s an I’ll-show-you type of person.”
Rondo certainly isn’t an I’ll-tell-you type of person. He was typically unrevealing in his typically brief meeting with the media after the game.
“I’m just playing. The biggest thing is we got the win,” Rondo said. “If you get those type of numbers and you lose, it’s kind of irrelevant.”
Would Rondo even want to stick around for rebuilding in Boston, though?
“That’s tough,” Perkins said. “That would be tough on anybody who’s used to winning.”
As for his former team, Perkins said: “I don’t know what’s going to happen. This might be it. I think if they get to the playoffs, they’re going to be pretty tough to beat, because there’s a lot of pride in that room. I”m not sure where (KG) will play next season, or even if he wants to play. But if somebody gave him an offer, he’d have to think about it, and I think he can help somebody. Who wouldn’t want a big man?”
Luckily for Perkins, the Thunder craved a big man last spring. He and the Thunder are going in one direction, the Celtics in another.