By all accounts, Kendrick Perkins is a very nice human being when he's not on the basketball court.
But when we laces them up he appears to undergo a Hulk-like transformation, as he morphs into The Beast - a shot-swatting, illegal screen-setting, rebound-securing hothead who spares no sympathy for opposing big men, and has even less regard for vision-impaired officials who might be giving him the short end of the stick.
Officials in today's NBA are hardly ever right in Kendrick Perkins' eyes, judging by the way his arms fly up in protest and a menacing scowl overtakes his expression every time an official whistles a penalty against him. Often, these infractions occur while Perk is trying to help out a teammate in the form of a screen, only to watch and listen as the whistle blows and the referee signals that play is moving the other way.
Perk's reactions have been well documented, and while they might be demonstrations of his competitiveness, they need to change - preferably sooner, rather than later.
(Editor's Note: at the end of this article there is fantastic video profile on Perk from NBA tv)
Kendrick Perkins is now playing in his seventh NBA season, yet he's still just 25 years old. He's old enough to have established a set reputation with the officials, yet young enough to remold or reshape that distinction, in order to allow himself more freedom on the court, which also benefits his team as a whole. It's no secret in the NBA that certain players either get more calls or get away with more should-be-calls, than others. Often, this is based on the star power of the player and the relationship he has with the officials managing the game.
In the case of Perk, he's never met an official that he's liked. It's highly doubtful that there's a mutual appreciation or respect brewing between Perk and any of the league's officials today. But because he's Kendrick Perkins and because of his constant outbursts at the various calls (or non-calls), officials continue to lose respect for him on a daily basis. Despite his personality off the court, he's steadily earning that thug-like reputation with officials, and they're bound to come down harder on him more often because of it.
He does have a reputation," Rivers said. "But you know how you get a reputation? You earn it. It's not like they just give you one.
Perk's won a title, he's evolving into one of the game's best centers and he should be getting an All-Star bid at some point over the next few seasons. But he's not evolving in the eyes of the officials because he's shown no signs of growth or maturity in terms of battling calls against him. He doesn't yet possess the star power to get away with his constant outcries, so the only way for him to gain leeway with the refs is to eliminate those outcries almost entirely.
Both Perk and the referees appear to be acting on the basis of human nature. Perkins feels like he has been wronged, so he speaks out about it. The referees endure his stream of obscenities and complaints and the relationship naturally deteriorates. If someone you didn't know very well on a personal level repeatedly screamed at you almost every night you're at work, it's unlikely you'll develop a respect for them, and if given the chance, you'd probably dole out a little payback.
This all appears to be happening in the case of Perk vs. the officials and it's starting to take a toll on the Celtics, as evidenced by the technical foul he was assessed as the Celtics were trying to make a comeback against the Phoenix Suns back on December 30:
"He's just got to get better, and I told him that at halftime," Rivers said. "You know, we cut it to nine points, and then he gets a tech -- I have no idea over what. He's got to grow up. He's got to get better, there's no doubt about it."
Perk's all business when he takes the floor. He never participates in the friendly banter NBA friends engage in when their teams play each other. Even going up against proven friends like Al Jefferson won't result in Perk cracking the occasional smile. It's not an illusion, as Perk has even acknowledged this to fans during games. When the C's whacked the Oklahoma City Thunder back on December 4, a fan mentioned to Perk how he should smile more.
Perk's response: "That's not what I do."
Many fans appreciate Perk for his brooding, serious nature, and that does not have to change one bit. He doesn't need to smile any more than he does now. He doesn't need to change his game in any way, shape or form. All he has to do is shut up and play basketball. If he doesn't get a call he should shut his trap, sprint back up the floor and take out his anger on his opponent by blocking his shot and starting a fast break for the Celtics' offense. That's the ultimate response any player can make to a questionable call. The more Perk stays out of the ear of the Joey Crawfords and the Eddie F. Rushes of the world, the better off he and the Celtics will be.
It has been noted how Rasheed Wallace is basically earning most of his technical fouls this season because of his reputation. While some of the techs have been warranted, on more than one occasion, 'Sheed shouts the same thing at an official that another player might have said five minutes ago or another player will say five minutes later. The difference is 'Sheed's reputation, as he has a well-chronicled history of disputes with officials. If Perkins doesn't change his ways, it's only a matter of time before he's regarded in the same light as Wallace, and it will threaten to drag him down for the remainder of his career. It'll be an added unnecessary weight that he won't be able to shake from his shoulders, unless he changes his ways now.
The responsibility lies on Perk now, according to Doc Rivers:
"He may get reputation fouls, he may get reputation techs. But he made the bed. So now, he's going to have to make it up."
NBATV profile on Perk. I highly encourage you watch it if you haven't already seen it.
For even more on Perk, Celtics.com's Peter Stringer has a nice piece about his development as a player.