Kendrick La’Dale Perkins, aged 33, was released on Tuesday, July 17th, by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was born on November 10th, 1984, in Nederland, Texas.
In his senior year at Clifton J. Ozen High School in Beaumont, Texas, Perkins averaged 27.5 points, 16.4 rebounds, and 7.8 blocks per game. Rivals.com ranked him as a five star college recruit, the third-best center, and sixth-best overall player in his class. After committing to play basketball at the University of Memphis, Perkins decided to skip college and enter the NBA straight out of high school.
Like most prep-to-pro prospects, Perkins wasn’t a high draft pick, going 27th overall to the Memphis Grizzlies. However, right after they selected him, the Grizzlies traded him to the Boston Celtics. Perkins would play seven and a half seasons for Boston, winning the NBA Finals in 2008.
In February of 2011, Perkins was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who he would play for until 2015. Perkins then signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and was a member of the Cavs team that lost in the NBA Finals four games to two.
After the season, Perkins moved onto the New Orleans Pelicans, before returning to Cleveland in 2017-2018, losing his third NBA Finals in four appearances.
He is survived by his 11 Cavs teammates from last season, in addition to the many other players and coaches he made an impact on during his career. He will be remembered for his numerous Shaqtin’ a fool appearances, staring down Drake from across the court, and flipping Kevin Durant off during an NBA Finals press conference.
For the entirety of his career, Perkins was known as a fantastic teammate. During his MVP acceptance speech in 2014, Kevin Durant teared up when he began to thank Perkins for his locker room contributions that season. Russell Westbrook raved about Perkins as well.
“he cares. He has a big heart and he’s only about winning.”
Even though Perkins was a benchwarmer for the Cavaliers, he was an extremely capable player earlier in his career. In 2009-2010, Perkins averaged 10.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. He developed a reputation as one of the league’s premier defensive enforcers, in addition to one of its best teammates.
The highlight of Perkins’ 2017-2018 was the sole regular season appearance for Perkins. In 15 minutes, he scored three points, pulled down one rebound, assisted on two baskets, committed a turnover, and fouled one player. This type of unrivaled play is, surprisingly, not the reason that Cleveland signed him.
Usually, championship teams are not incredibly young. Their most important players are typically established veterans, with a few filling the special role of locker room leader. For the Cavs, players who have taken this role over the past few seasons include Shawn Marion, James Jones, Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, and Perkins. Veteran leadership, despite all of the attention it receives, is still one of the most undervalued components of a team.
Last season, the Golden State Warriors were the oldest team in the league, with an average age of 28.12. David West, Shaun Livingston, and Andre Igoudala are all older players who played major roles with Golden State.
Rounding out the top four oldest teams were the Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, and Houston Rockets. With the spurs being the only exception, three of the top four teams in age made the conference finals.
This might lead one to believe that older, more experienced teams are better prepared to face the intense environment that is the NBA postseason. While it’s not exactly an indisputable scientific fact, the results of the 2017-2018 playoffs certainly support it.
The five youngest teams last season were Phoenix, Philadelphia, Indiana, Chicago, and Boston. Three of those teams made the playoffs, and two of them lost in seven-game series.
In Philly, the process finally yielded results, as the 76ers took down the Miami Heat in five games during the first round. Then, in the conference semifinals, they received the same treatment by the upstart Boston Celtics.
The Celtics pushed the Cavaliers to the brink of defeat in seven games, but Cleveland’s experience ultimately gave them the advantage over the younger team.
Perkins was a major part of the advantage that the Cavs had over the younger teams. Even though he didn’t play, he had been through that journey many times before. He knew what worked, and what didn’t. He had been on the winning end of many playoff series, but had also suffered many devastating losses.
Even though it wasn’t through playing basketball, Kendrick Perkins made a lasting impact on the Cleveland Cavaliers.