As expected, a short-sighted article by a specific author from a certain New Orleans media outlet has already been published. However, this time he's not alone and plenty among the masses have asked the same question. I'm here to tell you, though, the Kendrick Perkins signing will be money well spent for so many of the other things that is required of winning basketball teams.
Do you remember how many people decried some of the in-season moves made by the Pelicans in 2014-15? That Dell Demps helped Memphis acquire Jeff Green in the Quincy Pondexter deal, or that Norris Cole had no chance to move the needle since he couldn't assert himself in Miami alongside Mario Chalmers or Shabazz Napier?
Although the Perkins signing will serve a different purpose -- in that his main contribution won't come on the field of play -- I believe his addition to the team will be just as instrumental. Among other things, one concern that I vociferously harped over the course of last season was a lack of mental toughness.
Following the loss to the Sixers on January 16, 2015, I ranted a bit in the recap of the game but with good reason. Essentially, I proposed that the Pelicans did not have a good mix of personalities and lacked a button pusher.
As I've mentioned since, the additions of Cole and Pondexter helped alleviate this situation somewhat, and with the organization moving on from Monty Williams, we should probably expect the players to exhibit more emotions in a much freer Alvin Gentry system. Also, it won't hurt that the young bunch will be a year wiser.
Yet, there is a chance it might not be enough so Dell Demps smartly used a roster spot on a veteran for a team that is looking to take the next step. A player who is known for not only being an enforcer on the floor but is a very knowledgeable student of the game. One who isn't afraid to speak his mind.
In the course of a day or so, I have noticed many jumped aboard the whole mentor for Anthony Davis idea. No doubt AD will learn some things, namely how the greats of the game perceive the game and how they prepare for it, but let's not forget that Davis already has an impeccable work ethic and has been around the greats plenty of times (All-Star games, Olympics).
Rather, we should think of Perkins as serving as an important mentor for the entire team. He'll be there to motivate the players who are meeker than Davis or simply haven't been around enough of the enlightened winners of the game. For instance, the current champs, the Golden State Warriors, have such a voice in Draymond Green.
Tempers ran high during a physical Golden State practice in Portland in the preseason of 2012 when a rookie, some loudmouthed second-round pick, spoke up. Draymond Green told his teammates that if they wanted to bring out the best in each other, if they wanted to amount to something larger than the sum of their parts, they would have to go at each other in practice — hard. It was never personal, Green told them. It was part of the process.
In a notepad file I keep for possible future topics, I had jotted down an idea that questioned the composition of the Pelicans after reading this aforementioned Grantland article.
As a unit, are they too soft?
Well, it looks like the organization may view the team similarly. As with Green, Perkins brings the exact same of do-or-don't-do-there-is-no-try attitude that has been sorely lacking.
Perkins' role has always been twofold: do the dirty work on the floor, and be a strong leader off it. His practice antics are legendary. Adams told one story last season that in one of his first practices, Perkins and him got tangled. Perkins hit the rookie with a sharp elbow in the ribs and yelled, "I'm the only silverback!" That was Adams' official holy-crap-I'm-in-the-NBA moment.
He's also a notorious motivator. Durant tearfully acknowledged Perkins in his MVP speech, talking about the late-night texts of encouragement he'd receive from the center. One player said Perkins is almost like a team psychologist, making phone calls and sending constant texts to mentor and motivate.
No, Perkins won't lead by example most nights on the court, but his contributions in practice, from the sidelines and everything in between will suffice. And don't fear, just because he won't play extended minutes, his new teammates will heed his advice. Having won a ring and played alongside Kevin Garnett in Boston, been the enforcer that Kevin Durant needed in Okahoma City and spent last year alongside LeBron James, the roster will intently be listening to all of his first hand recollections.
Also, it is important to note that Perkins is low maintenance and will not be a disruptive presence.
What's good my peeps? Great team win. Whatever it takes. Sacrificing is what good teams do. When my name is called I'll be ready. 9 in a row— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) January 30, 2014
If Perkins understood the big picture after seeing his minutes reduced to under twenty per game, he's certainly not going to have an issue now. He's past 30 and realizes he is on the downside of his career. He just arrived from Cleveland, fresh of the smallest role of his career since first entering the league.
However, if injury does strike Omer Asik, Perkins could perhaps step right into the starting lineup in order to maintain the continuity of having Ryan Anderson and Alexis Ajinca come off the bench. Perk isn't that far removed from his Thunder days where he made it difficult for opponents to score in the paint and his defensive rebounding percentage was on par with a Marc Gasol.
Oh, and as far as Gentry's system, Perkins played close to 4 full seasons in Oklahoma City which saw the Thunder finish 6th, 10th, 9th and 7th in Pace. If the brass doesn't think Asik is going to hurt their ability to play uptempo, a backup at his position should not either.
This offseason, we've seen a number of Western Conference rivals make splashy personnel moves to fill voids. Due to some salary cap restraints, the Pelicans did not have the luxury of throwing money at notable free agents; however, that's not a major issue for the believers who already trust the talent of this team.
Honestly what separates some of the teams atop the standings in the West isn't talent but rather mentality. Perkins said as much of his Thunder upon the conclusion of the 2013-14 season.
"The biggest thing with our team is our mental," Perkins said, bluntly, in his exit interview. "In my opinion, we have more than enough talent to win a championship this year. I thought we just fell short because of the mental things that we did wrong."
It’s the minor, everyday details of the game that Perkins sees occasionally, but not consistently enough from the Thunder. The commitment to defense. The trust in teammates. The focus on every possession.
"That just comes from extra studying the game, watching film, going (to) get knowledge from other people," Perkins said.
In 2014-15 New Orleans went 26-14 against teams with records below .500. Among all playoff teams -- and that includes the Leastern Conference -- only the Brooklyn Nets finished with less wins against the same type of competition.
Then against the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, the Pelicans lack of mental toughness was on full display. In Game 1, the moment proved to big for nearly everybody but Davis. In Games 2 and 3, the Pels relinquished leads in the second halves. And Game 4 was over before it had even started.
John Salmons was a veteran Dell Demps signed last year in hopes that his experience could help a young roster. However, he didn't work out because he had not only had lost more than a step but also lacked the requisite, vocal leadership skills.
At the very least, Perkins unmistakably possesses the necessary aura, so I can't think of a better way for Demps to spend the veteran minimum on a reserve whose toughness was coined contagious by James Harden. Also, don't forget that it's extremely likely that both Robert Pack and Darren Erman gave their overwhelming approval for the move after having spent time on the same bench with him in other stops.
And who knows, having another important cheerleader on the Pelicans' sidelines may swing Kevin Durant in the direction of the Crescent City in a year's time. Perk's salary will be $1,499,187 salary but guess what? The amount that hits the cap is even less!
As @ESPNSteinLine reports. Kendrick Perkins to NOP. $1.49m but only $947k hits the cap. Solid veteran. Would not expect him to see much time— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) July 22, 2015
Thus, for only a 1.4% of a hit on next season's 70 million dollar salary cap, do the Pelicans get a chance to increase their odds of winning the Durantula sweepstakes. That's a bet you make every damn time.
Championship teams carry experienced veterans towards the end of their benches, not a bunch of fresh faces to the NBA. Please, don't be fooled into thinking any different. Kendrick Perkins was signed to fill a very obvious hole on the team, but it could potentially turn out to be so much more than that.