Published March 01, 2011
OKLAHOMA CITY – Before even playing a game with the Oklahoma City Thunder, center Kendrick Perkins signed an extension Tuesday to stay with his new team for a while.
Perkins joined the Thunder five days ago in a trade with Boston, where he spent the first seven years of his career and won the 2008 NBA title.
Now, he's due to make about $36 million while staying in Oklahoma City through the 2014-15 season.
"It kind of felt like the worst day of my life when I got traded from the Cs, from being there so long. But when I got here, it kind of took my mind away from everything, I think, and everything just kind of blew me away," Perkins said after practice Tuesday. "It was kind of the worst but best day."
Perkins said he was attracted to stay in Oklahoma City because of similarities he sees to his Texas hometown and by his first impressions of the Thunder as a "first-class" organization. He would have become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but said he didn't "want to take anything for granted."
"I'm a country boy. I'm from Beaumont, Texas. I don't think it's really hard to please me," Perkins said. "I didn't really have just a crazy number in mind. We met, we came to an agreement, that's the most important thing."
Perkins was acquired along with Nate Robinson in exchange for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and a future first-round pick in a deal completed at the league's trade deadline Thursday. He played in 12 games for Boston after returning from a knee injury he sustained in Game 6 of the NBA finals, but is expected to miss as much as three weeks with a left knee sprain
The trade, along with a deal that sent veteran Morris Peterson and D.J. White to Charlotte for Nazr Mohammed, cleared about $2.5 million in cap space for the Thunder this season and Oklahoma City decided to use it to sweeten its offer to Perkins.
"The trades left us with some flexibility underneath the salary cap that we looked at and felt like it would be something that we should explore and bring to Kendrick and his representation," general manager Sam Presti said. "We were fortunate that that opportunity presented itself."
The 6-foot-10 Perkins was the 27th overall pick in the 2003 draft and has averaged 6.4 points and 6.1 rebounds over the course of his career. When the Lakers played at Oklahoma City on Sunday, Kobe Bryant — who faced the Celtics in the finals two of the past three years — called Perkins the "best low-post defender we have in the game."
That sort of defense is exactly what the Thunder have been missing this season, although they had to give up two starters to get him.
"To tell you that this was some master plan, that we knew we'd have this opportunity weeks ago, I can't do that. I can't say that," Presti said. "We were fortunate that as a result of the trades that we made, it created this window and we looked to try to take advantage of it."
Last offseason, the Thunder signed NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant to a five-year, $85 million contract. Veteran forward Nick Collison, the only other player left from the franchise's days in Seattle, also signed a long-term extension in November.
Russell Westbrook, a first-time All-Star this season, will become eligible for a contract extension this offseason.
"We've talked for a long time about trying to put together a team that can grow and can sustain, and this is another step in that process of trying to put a foundation in place that we feel like can continue to be a competitive team year in and year out," Presti said.