Perkins eager for fresh start in OKC

When the Boston Celtics sent him to the Oklahoma City Thunder shortly before the passing of the NBA trade deadline, Kendrick Perkins(notes) was stunned by the finality of the move. No longer would he wear the fabled green jersey of the Celtics, the only franchise for which he’s ever played. No more would he line up alongside the same four teammates who had carried the Celtics back to prominence.

And yet Perkins wasn’t surprised.

After turning down a four-year, $30 million extension offer from the Celtics in early February, Perkins knew his future with the team could be limited. The Celtics began exploring trades for their center during All-Star weekend, league sources said, and eventually completed a deal with the Thunder on deadline day.

Kendrick Perkins turned down a four-year, $30 million extension with the Celtics.
(NBAE/Getty Images)

“I’m just glad I got traded to a good organization, not a [expletive] organization,” Perkins said.

Perkins went from a veteran championship contender that had come within a game of winning its second title in three years to a young team that – with Kevin Durant(notes) and Russell Westbrook(notes) leading the way – seems poised to contend for many years to come. In his three weeks with the Thunder, Perkins has experienced the same level of professionalism he was accustomed to in Boston. And as much as he loved playing in Boston, the pace of Oklahoma City is much closer to that of his native Beaumont, Texas.

If Perkins had any concerns about his future with the Thunder, they disappeared when the team gave him a four-year, $36 million extension before he’d even played in a single game.

“I feel like I was wanted – and that’s a good thing,” Perkins said. “You always want to be at a place where somebody wants you.

“It’s just like being at home in Texas. There are a lot of similarities as far as the weather, the food, the people. The people have been extremely friendly. You don’t have to worry about a horn being blown at you and five seconds later there is a red light.”

Perkins’ teammates were disappointed to see him leave, and Celtics general manager Danny Ainge has spent the weeks since trying to explain the trade by citing Perkins’ injury history and contract concerns. Perkins hasn’t taken Ainge’s comments personally because he always knew it would be difficult for Boston to keep him, given the money it had already committed to Paul Pierce(notes), Kevin Garnett(notes), Ray Allen(notes) and Rajon Rondo(notes).

Perkins continues to speak with Rondo daily and has kept up with his other former teammates, head coach Doc Rivers and Ainge through text messages.

“Sometimes when you do something wrong, sometimes you have to find a reason to cover it up – they don’t want to make themselves look bad,” Perkins said. “But at the end of the day, I’m happy where I’m at. Obviously, they didn’t want to spend some money on someone else big.

“I don’t wish bad on them. I want them to have great years in Boston. I think it’s going to be OK on both ends. There is no bad blood.”

Oklahoma City’s need for size and an interior defensive presence was no secret. Perkins is considered one of the NBA’s top defensive centers. No one doubts his toughness, and his lengthy playoff experience is valued on a team where many of the players have appeared in just one postseason series.

“The thing that I like is he’s been on a championship team,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “It’s very difficult to get there. He knows the steps. One day, hopefully, he can be one of the pieces to get us there.”

Perkins is glad he won’t have to test free agency while the league is trying to negotiate a new labor agreement. By signing an extension with the Thunder, he assured himself some financial stability.

“It relieves a lot of stress off your shoulders,” he said. “You don’t want to wake up every day thinking about that or where you might be.”

Perkins also is getting closer to making his debut for the Thunder. He’s been sidelined by a left knee sprain he sustained shortly before the trade, but hopes to be back on the court for Wednesday’s game in Miami.

“You’re always a little nervous coming to a new situation, a new team,” Perkins said. “I’d be lying to you – everyone would be lying to you if they said they weren’t nervous in their first game.”

Draft prospect watch

Baylor forward Perry Jones is expected to be a top-five pick in the NBA draft.
(Getty Images)

Baylor freshman forward Perry Jones is expected to enter the NBA draft after he was declared ineligible by the NCAA on Wednesday following an investigation into whether Jones and his family received improper benefits from an AAU coach before he enrolled in college.

Several NBA executives don’t think the investigation will have a big impact on where Jones goes in the draft. The 6-foot-11, 225-pound forward is projected to be taken among the top five picks.

Jones averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds while starting 30 games for Baylor, which lost in the first round of the Big 12 tournament after the NCAA revealed its findings.

“He’s a young player being talked about in the top five because of his upside and what he will become – not because he was going to be MVP of the Big 12 tournament,” one Eastern Conference executive said.

One Western Conference general manager preached patience with Jones.

“He’s someone you have to wait on so that other aspects of his game catch up with his physical talents,” the GM said.

Baylor officials said Jones had no knowledge of three, 15-day loans his mother received from AAU coach Lawrence Johns that were provided while Jones was in high school. The New York Times reported that Johns said he made three payments to Jones’ mother totaling no more than $1,000 to help her cover her mortgage two years ago, and the money was repaid. Johns also reportedly paid for Jones’ travel to an NFL preseason game in San Diego before he attended Baylor.

“Those folks made decisions knowing it could affect [Jones’] future and did it anyway,” the Eastern Conference executive said. “It will be curious to see how quickly he will jettison those who bring him down.”

Remembering history

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love(notes) recorded his 52nd consecutive double-double on Wednesday to pass Moses Malone for the longest streak since the ABA and NBA merged in 1976. What’s less known, however, is that Wilt Chamberlain set the all-time record with 227 double-doubles from Dec. 11, 1964 to Nov. 17, 1967.

Al Attles, who played with Chamberlain when he scored 100 points in a game, said the lack of vintage film from that era has kept players such as Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Elgin Baylor from getting the proper respect when measured against the accomplishments of today’s players.

“Unfortunately in sports, with exception to a few records, people don’t really remember what happened years ago,” Attles said. “It’s up to those that were there to keep it on the front page. You have to keep the stories alive for those that weren’t there. For instance, years ago they did not keep record of blocked shots. And I can tell you for a fact, because I played with Wilt, there were games where he blocked 10 or 15 shots.

“Not only Wilt, but the same thing with Russell. When you tell people about it they think you’re kind of blowing smoke a little bit.”

Marc Spears is an NBA writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter.
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Updated Friday, Mar 11, 2011