NBA AM: Is Perkins The Key For Thunder?
Time For Perkins: The Oklahoma City Thunder are fighting for their Finals’ lives tonight in Miami. They are in a 2-1 hole to the Miami HEAT with the next two games being played in enemy territory. The HEAT have placed sixteen numbered signs on 16 palm trees outside of the American Airlines Arenas, each sign signifying the win needed to hoist the trophy. There are two signs left and the Thunder need to find some maturity quickly and it may already be on the roster in Kendrick Perkins.
“[My role is to] just to keep everybody with a stable mind and keep everybody focused on what’s at hand” Perkins told HOOPSWORLD. “It’s not the end of the world. We’re down one game. And if we get this win [tonight] all of the sudden it’s a three game series with two of them on our home court.”
“We just have to make sure that we stick together. Don’t get down. Don’t think it’s the end of the world. Keep building. We are a good team. We just got to keep believing in each other, keep believing in the system and go from there.”
Perkins sat in his locker after Game 3 and was visibly upset at how his team lost Game 3, feeling that the game was there for the taking and they let it slip away with bad decisions. Perkins admitted that it’s not easy letting that emotion go, and that he tries to use it as fuel.
“You don’t. You keep it because it helps you,” Perkins said of the anger after the loss. “It helps you go into the next game so you keep it all the way until the next game. You don’t get satisfied or say ‘nah I’m done with it’. You keep it. That way it irritates you where you’re losing sleep and you’re ready to get to the next game to redeem yourself.”
The Thunder have their stars in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, what they need more nights than night is a little nasty and inside toughness and that’s what Perkins feels he has to bring to Game 4.
“I just feel like I just have to keep moving forward,” explained Perkins. “Don’t take any steps backwards and just keep going. I feel like at the end of the day that [Game 3] was in reach for us to win. Matter of fact, I feel like we had the game. We had a couple of silly fouls here and there, missed free throws, and gave up some offensive rebounds. We clear that up and [Game 4] is in our reach. “
Perkins knows first-hand how hard it is to get to the NBA Finals and says he talks to his teammates about it a lot.
“I always remind the guys we cannot take this opportunity for granted because you never know when you’ll get back.”
The Thunder had a lot of confidence during yesterday’s practice and while Miami has swung the series their way, The Thunder feel like they were a couple of maturity issues away from having control of the series.
They expect to clean that up tonight in Game 4.
Talking Thunder After spending the last few days around the Thunder there are a few things being kicked around in the media that simply do not line up with the Thunder’s thinking.
First, the Thunder are not likely trading the 28th pick in next week’s NBA Draft.
The Thunder did explore some things with their pick “because that’s what you do” said a source close to the process, but the odds that a deal involving the 28th pick seems unlikely. The Thunder view the draft as a “free way to add talent” and they plan to use that tool to add to the team. The Thunder did meet with roughly 18 prospects during the Chicago NBA Draft Combine, a large number of players they would normally not get into OKC for a visit while holding the 28th pick.
It’s become pretty common for teams with late first round pick to schedule meetings with upper tier players, mainly to do advanced work in the event they ever trade for that player or ever decide to pursue that player in free agency.
There are some players at the top of the draft the Thunder “like” but the odds of a deal remains very slim. The Thunder believes there is real talent in this draft especially in the 20”s to 40’s and feels strongly that they can extract a good player from their first round pick.
Draft trades are always fluid, but as things stand this week, don’t expect the Thunder to trade their pick, they seem ready to use it themselves.
The second is the concept of keeping James Harden and Serge Ibaka. Eric Pincus will get into this a little more thoroughly with all the math later today. However the overarching concept from the Thunder is that while there is likely going to be demand for their two players in July of 2013 – the soonest they can hit free agency. However there is so much about this new collective bargaining agreement that teams do not know, that trying to plan for 2013 now, is almost futile.
To get the labor deal the NBA got done in December to end the lockout, both sides agreed that this past season and next season will operate under the same cap dollar amounts as the 2011 season. In 2013 the teeth of this new labor deal will kick in and the share of revenue that goes to the players will be based on the newly agreed to formula and no one knows what that number is going to look like.
There is the optimistic view that even with a smaller revenue split that the league’s growth and popularity will set a salary cap at roughly $60 million and a tax line at just over $73 million. Those are projected numbers and nothing close to where things could fall.
It’s this uncertainty that’s driving the caution from the Thunder about keeping or losing Serge and James. The truth of the matter is if the salary figures land where everyone is projecting them to land, the Thunder could have as much as $17 million to offer Harden and Ibaka, however the Thunder are quick to point out – “what’s the marketplace for players going to look like?”
This past season saw free agency prices come way down. Players who were expecting $10 million deals got $5 million deals. How will the NBA value talent in this new more restrictive world?
The Thunder will have the option to match anything Harden and Ibaka are offered, so there is no real threat of losing them unless someone offers crazy money to one or both and there just isn’t enough data to support that that’s going to happen.
The Thunder are in the driver’s seat on both players, so they are not at all concerned with a problem that’s 1 yeas and 13 days away… they have more pressing concerns… like getting Game 4 in Miami.
Tough Break For Sullinger: ESPN’s Chad Ford is reporting that Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger may have been “red-flagged” during the medical review at the Chicago Draft Combine.
All of the prospects that get invited to the Combine undergo a rigorous and thorough medical evaluation and apparently a budge in Sullingers’ back has raised concerns about his value. Typically NBA teams simply shy away from guys with medical issues in the draft mainly because there are typically other options available. Why waste a pick on a guy that could be damaged or have a shortened career, when there is another guy maybe a little lower that won’t have issues?
There will be a point in the draft when reward outweighs risk… the question is how far down the draft board is that?
Sullinger is a top ten talent for sure, however DeJuan Blair was a top ten talent in 2009 and he slid all the way to 37 before the Spurs decided his upside outweighed the risk. Orlando’s JJ Redick was flagged for a back issue during the 2006 NBA draft and still ended up being drafted 11th overall. Redick did end up missing most of his rookie year due to a non-back related injury.
Sullinger has been working out for teams and has not shown any indications of an injury, although with a back related concerns is the risk really worth it?
The word in NBA circles is that Sullinger had some kind of hamstring injury that never healed properly and it’s that issue that is causing the back issue. This is no small thing according to NBA insiders, so Sullinger could be in for a long night.
Tough News: Nothing in life stays the same for very long and change is always inevitable. It is with a lot of sadness that I announce that HOOPSWORLD is losing long-time writer and editor Jason Fleming.
Jason has been a member of our team for more years than I can recall. Over the last few years, things in Jason’s life have changed and his ability to do the job he expects of himself has become harder and harder and he has elected to step down.
Jason has been a great member of our team and we are losing a great person in the process. Jason will always have a place at HOOPSWORLD and we wish him the best in his endeavors away from basketball.
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NBA Chats: There are three NBA chats scheduled for today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s Anthony Macri at 10am. Coach Macri works with The AirAsia ASEAN Basketball League in Southeast Asia and is based in Jakarta. Coach Macri is involved in all aspects of the leagues operation as a consultant and has worked with dozens of NBA players developing their game. Senior NBA writer Eric Pincus will hold down his weekly NBA chat at 3:30pm EST this week. Eric covers the Western Conference from LA with the Lakers and the Clippers. Stephen Litel will wrap up the day with his weekly NBA Chat at 8pm EST. You can always find the next upcoming chat here: Upcoming NBA Chats. If you are looking for a completed chat, check the Chat Archive.