Oct 28, 2012, 9:00 AM EDT
We all have at least a little bit of stubbornness in us. Not asking for directions? A common mistake rooted in pride. Going down a random, unmarked dirt road for five miles after not asking for directions? A little more foolish. Ending up out of gas in the middle of a field hoping the hills don’t have eyes? Now that’s the level of stubbornness shown by Oklahoma City’s front office.
This isn’t about the end result of having to trade James Harden to the Houston Rockets. Considering the circumstances — small market owner unwilling to pay a highly punitive tax, and a young star unwilling to take less money because of it — the Thunder did alright here. Kevin Martin is the lemonade; an efficient scorer who should be able to come close to replicating Harden’s primary function as a second unit scorer.
In a vacuum, both sides win here. The Thunder get something for someone they were going to lose and stay true to their ideology of building with the best value in sports (the rookie deal) and pick up at least three bonus chances to do so with Jeremy Lamb and the two first round picks. And the Rockets? They finally get the star they’ve been longing for. So what’s the problem here?
The problem is, it didn’t have to come to this. This wasn’t caused by an owner with a tight wallet, or a player getting “greedy”, or even by the new CBA. This was a mistake that was compounded instead of rectified, even when there were multiple opportunities presented. Losing James Harden wasn’t Oklahoma City’s big mistake — keeping Kendrick Perkins was.
When the Thunder originally acquired Perkins, it made sense. The Lakers stood tall as the Thunder’s biggest foe, and it was becoming more and more clear that Jeff Green was not the solution. Even though some believed Perkins was simply a product of Boston’s defensive system, at the very least, most agreed he was a formidable post defender. With Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum blocking out the sun, Presti and the Thunder wanted to bring someone in to move them out of the way.
March 1st, 2011: Before he plays a single minute in a Thunder uniform, Perkins is signed to a 36-million dollar, 4-year extension.
A little foreshadowing — the Thunder lock up Perkins before they see how he fits with the team, simply because they know they can’t afford to lose an asset and receive nothing in return but cap space. They were committed, but it was to the idea of Perkins instead of what he actually was.
May 25th, 2011: Oklahoma City falls to Dallas in the Western Conference Finals, 4-1. Perkins plays 28 scoreless minutes in the series clinching game.
Here’s where the warning signs should have started to really go off. Tyson Chandler out-rebounded Perkins in every game of this series, and rendered the biggest strength of Perkins — post defense — obsolete by scoring almost exclusively on pick-and-rolls and lobs. While Chandler buzzed around the floor, Perkins moved like a dinosaur the majority of the series.
December 8th, 2011: NBA Lockout ends. The amnesty provision is included in the new CBA, along with more punitive luxury tax and changes to player extensions, among other things.
June 21st, 2012: The Miami Heat defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 in the NBA Finals. Perkins finishes the playoffs averaging 4.7 points and 6.2 rebounds a game on 41.6% shooting.
Matched up against Chris Bosh, Kendrick Perkins gets drawn out of the lane defensively and again offers little help in the way of scoring. Nick Collison, routinely one of the league’s plus/minus leaders, plays less minutes than Perkins in every game. Perkins finishes his court time during the series a -19. Collison finishes +13.
July 17th, 2012: The NBA’s amnesty deadline passes. Kendrick Perkins remains with the Thunder.
This is when the Thunder truly lost James Harden. If the Thunder amnesty Perkins here, they can comfortably sign Harden to a max deal after the season. That’s all it would have taken to keep the young core of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and James Harden together for at least the next few years.
So why didn’t it happen? The Thunder surely have access to the numbers, which scream for Collison to play over Perkins. And if they ignored the stats and went simply on the eye test, they had to have seen what a little extra stretch can do for your offense after Miami bludgeoned them into submission with jump shots. Keeping a plodding big man with declining skills that are going out of demand over a young star on the rise? That’s not logical — especially when you’re contending for a title. It’s just not.
But it’s human. Thunder GM Sam Presti has shown that he can come in and fix someone else’s mistakes with the best of them. But admitting and fixing your own? That’s not as easy.
May 25, 2013, 1:49 AM EDT
Coming into this series, the Miami Heat gave the proper lip service to respecting the Indiana Pacers, but did they really respect them? The Heat had gone 45-3 since Feb. 3, you had to wonder if the Pacers really had their attention They do now. The question going into this series wasn’t if the Pacers…
May 25, 2013, 12:45 AM EDT
After the way Game 1 between the Heat and the Pacers went down, Game 2 could have gone one of two ways. Either Miami could have received the wake-up call delivered by Indiana and then come out with a dominant and inspired performance, or the Pacers could continue to make life difficult for the defending…
May 25, 2013, 12:06 AM EDT
As the final seconds of the third quarter wound down, Paul George dribbled at the top and sized up LeBron James, arguably the NBA’s best wing defender. Without the benefit of LeBron overplaying him or the absence of a rim protector, George drove left past LeBron and ferociously dunked over Chris Andersen as a foul…
May 24, 2013, 11:11 PM EDT
This series is so much fun. Paul George just absolutely crushed the Birdman Chris Andersen with a dunk. Just crushed him. LeBron James comes back down and drains a three. Then a little hand slap at midcourt. Respect. These are two teams standing toe-to-two trading blows, and most teams wither when they do that with…
May 24, 2013, 9:45 PM EDT
There is no way that should have been a technical. It’s the playoffs, we want emotion, we want a little feisty play… and frankly that wasn’t that feisty. There are Tuesday night games in Minnesota in January that were more emotional than that play. But Scott Foster has the fastest trigger in the NBA for…
May 24, 2013, 6:39 PM EDT
First Jim Boeheim has Carmelo Anthony’s back, now it’s time for another coach to get a former star’s back. Kentucky coach John Calipari was on the Adam “the Bull” & Dustin Fox show on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland, and when asked about Derrick Rose and his injury — and the heat he took in…
May 24, 2013, 4:56 PM EDT
In Hollywood, they call that chewing up the scenery. Memphis guard Tony Allen has been fined $5,000 by the league for his overacting — technically violating the league’s anti-flopping policy — on that play. Make no mistake, Manu Ginobili fouled Allen hard on this crucial late-game play — the Grizzlies were down four with :26…
May 24, 2013, 3:29 PM EDT
Early in the fourth quarter of the Heat’s Game 1 win over the Pacers, Ian Mahinmi grabbed LeBron James by the arm as he went up for the shot, causing James to fall a bit awkwardly as he crashed to the floor. It was ruled as a common foul at the time, but has since…
May 24, 2013, 2:42 PM EDT
The Clippers’ head coaching job is undoubtedly the most intriguing out of all of the ones that are currently open for next season. Assuming Chris Paul re-signs with the team in free agency, L.A. will return the core of a team that was talented enough to win 56 regular season games and two in the…
May 24, 2013, 2:34 PM EDT
To answer your first question, that is Todd MacCulloch getting dunked on. He played for the Nets in 2002. That was one of those years when the real NBA finals was the Lakers vs. Kings in the Western Conference Finals — whichever team got through that war was going to steamroll New Jersey. Which is…
May 24, 2013, 1:45 PM EDT
George Hill had a rough Game 1 for the Pacers — 2-of-9 shooting for five points with three turnovers. Plus, he sprained his big toe. I’m serious, he’s getting treatment and everything. The news comes from the twitter account of Mark Montieth of Pacers.com. George Hill has sprained left big toe, from Game 1. Had…
May 24, 2013, 1:22 PM EDT
When a player averages less than one point and three rebounds per game over the course of a season, while possessing the option to come back for another year with the same team at a salary of $9 million, it doesn’t take a degree in advanced economics to figure out what the chosen course of…
May 24, 2013, 1:19 PM EDT
Hibbert on if Battier does it again, "I have no problem putting my nuts in line of fire. …They pay me all this money, I got to be there."— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) May 24, 2013 Sometimes, we forget how much playing in the NBA is like any regular job. You show up. You get kneed…
May 24, 2013, 1:12 PM EDT
In their Thursday press availabilities, the tones between the Heat and Pacers were different. Indiana may have lost Game 1 but there was an optimistic “we can beat these guys” vibe around the team. Miami may be up 1-0 but there was more of a “that was not us, we can play a lot better”…
May 24, 2013, 12:51 PM EDT
The Raptors’ pursuit of Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri is kicking into high gear. Toronto received permission to speak with Ujiri, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke is aggressively pursuing Ujiri to become the Raptors’ general manager and plans to present an offer that will pay…
May 24, 2013, 11:28 AM EDT
If I’d had a vote, Greivis Vasquez would have gotten mine for Most Improved Player award — the third-year guard averaged 13.9 points and 9 assists per game for the then Hornets (now Pelicans) this past season, playing smart basketball along the way for a team that was grooming Anthony Davis and waiting for Eric…
May 24, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT
The Mavericks top off-season goal is to try and sign Dwight Howard. Have fun with that, knowing what we do about Howard it should be a quick and decisive process. But they need more than just a big man. It was evident this season the Mavs need better point guard play, and somebody who can…
May 24, 2013, 10:18 AM EDT
Roy Hibbert made life difficult in the paint for the Knicks in the second round — we’ve all seen Hibbert block Carmelo Anthony’s shot at the rim but that is just the tip of the iceberg. He altered and blocked all kinds of shots inside and owned the paint. The Miami heat scored 60 points…
May 24, 2013, 8:50 AM EDT
It’s a little tough to predict where the Clippers’ coaching search might lead because hiring a coach is a task owner Donald Sterling takes on personally. He has for a long time. He was the guy charmed by Vinny Del Negro and hired him when the basketball operations people wanted to go another direction (and…
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