The NBA's 30 Men of Intrigue: Kendrick Perkins

Kendrick Perkins (Perk)
2014-15 New Orleans Pelicans: 45-37, lost in first round

Sign someone more aggressive in the post, they said. Sign someone more aggressive, period, they said. The Pelicans' personalities are too “PC” — they need a guy to stir up some trouble every now and then, they said (“they” = me, if we’re being real). The New Orleans Pelicans did just that when they signed C Kendrick Perkins to a 1-year veteran’s minimum contract in July.

Perkins is a pretty intriguing guy as is, but the addition of him to the team looks to be intriguing as well in both positive and negative ways. The 6’10” loveable angry man split his 12th season in the NBA between the OKC Thunder and the new-and-improved LeBron-led Cavaliers. With OKC, Perk averaged 4 points and 5.5 rebounds in 51 games (three starts).

He was part of a three-team trade in February that sent him to the Utah Jazz, with whom he finalized a buyout, and moseyed on to the Cavs. Several teams — including New Orleans — were interested in Perkins at that time, but being recruited (reportedly) by King James proved to be enough persuasion and the decision was made. In 17 games with the Cavs, Perk averaged 2.6 ppg and 2.4 rpg.

The Pelicans could greatly use Perkins’ leadership. He and the recently added Nate Robinson have the most experience on the team, followed by Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon — each with seven years spent in the league, but the latter two don’t really scream “leader.” Gordon is often lackadaisical and Anderson has proven to be the motivating nice guy. That may be great in a humanitarian, but we’re talking about basketball here! I’m kidding... kind of. However, Perkins may be on a short-term deal, but you would be surprised to know how much of an effect a vocal, 12-year guy can have on a locker room.

It’s called ‘intangibles,’ and if you searched for the term in an NBA dictionary, Perkins’ photo — naturally with his famous never-changing mean mug — would probably be found next to it. He’s the “moral support” guy, often serving as a motivator for his teammates. He was credited in Kevin Durant’s now infamous, emotional MVP speech for sending Durant encouraging late-night texts.

Perkins spoke to the media earlier this month about his role with this new team. “Except for AD, the rest of our guys, they’re at the point in their career where it’s time for them to make statements — about who they are, and whether or not they’re gonna be winners in this league,” he said on his teammates. And he is correct. Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans: six years in the league for each — Holiday was the breakout PG with the Sixers, creating scores for his teammates and Evans was Rookie of the Year with Sacramento. Although Evans fared better than the injury-plagued Holiday, both guards struggled to create their own role with the Pelicans, who often played guard musical chairs under former coach Monty Williams. Gordon, the last leg of the famous guard trio, also has yet to have that one memorable season in New Orleans.

“They’re more than ready. They’re willing to listen; if the practice starts at 10 they’re here at 9. They’re just doing all the good things,” said Perkins in praise of his younger Nola teammates. He later continued, “I felt like they was missing that one little veteran piece, a guy to come in and give them a little extra push; a guy to come in and hold them accountable.”

But hold on, let’s not get this leader thing twisted. Perk wants to play. No surprise there. “I know I’m here to be a leader and be a veteran and all that, but I wanna play. I wanna play, I wanna win. I always say I’m gonna play until they tell me I can’t play no more so, I do wanna play,” he adamantly said in the same interview.

Calm down, New Orleans. That might not be such a bad thing. After all, he averaged 3.6 ppg and 4.7 rpg in 17.8 minutes per game in the 2015-16 preseason. The question here is will signing a center with his best years long gone fare in the Pelicans’ favor after investing so much money already in Omer Asik’s fat contract — oh, I mean, solidifying low-post play? Seriously, HOW did that contract happen again?

I don’t think fans have to worry too much about that, though. Perk’s cap hit is only about $1 million. As for him on the court, let’s be real here, no one signs Kendrick Perkins for his scoring ability. Or ball-handling. Or free-throw shooting (60% career). You know what you’re going to get with him on the court: screen setting, rebounding, and physicality. Out of Asik, Anderson, and Alexis Ajinca, which name oozes physical play and un-matched trash talking? Exactly. Brow will surely be expected to average 10+ RPG again and you can expect some aggressiveness from his new beefed up stature, but he cannot do it all, plus shoot threes with finesse. Asik was Charmin many times last season, often being outshined by Ajinca. Perkins’ presence should be a welcomed change, especially with the injury bug’s pestilent effect on the team.

I look at it this way, one of two scenarios will happen. Either Perkins will continue to fit in with the team, and adjust to new Coach Alvin Gentry’s pace of play. Or the opposite will occur, and at least we’ll have more funny moments to watch on “Shaqtin’ a Fool.” I personally am anticipating the moment Perk pulls up for at least one terrible three-pointer this season.

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