An under-the-radar factor in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes could be former Celtics center Kendrick Perkins. Durant and Perkins are close friends after playing five seasons together in Oklahoma City and talk at least once per week, according to Perkins. When the Pelicans were in Boston to face the Celtics this past season, Perkins revealed that Durant had "a few teams" in mind for free agency and "it might be time for a change" if the Thunder fell short in the playoffs, which they did.
Durant fought back tears during his 2014 MVP speech while calling Perkins "one of the best teammates" he's ever had. He once told The Oklahoman, "Perk brought that Boston mentality" when the Thunder traded for him.
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Just a few months ago, after the Thunder beat the Celtics, Durant spoke at length with a few media members and me about Perkins's influence on him and how much Perkins loved the Celtics organization and fans.
That's when it became obvious Durant-to-Boston had serious potential.
It's fair to wonder how much Perkins's input could influence Durant's final decision, especially since three of the six teams Durant is meeting with this weekend have ties to Perkins. The Celtics and Thunder are two of Perkins's former teams, and his former coach Doc Rivers runs the Clippers.
Durant has indicated multiple times that personal relationships will play an integral role in his decision this summer, so any team with a chance at Durant would be wise to at least consider adding Perkins on a veteran minimum contract. It might help move the needle in their direction.
"I don't care about commercials, I don't really care about this sh--, I just want to hoop," Durant recently told ESPN. "So all that stuff doesn't really matter to me. It's all about who I'm gonna play with, what type of people I'm going to be around every single day and I'll go from there."
No matter where Perkins is signed, his primary role would be as a team's veteran leader; most championship teams have one, and he's one of the most respected mentors in the NBA. But Perkins, still just 31, likely wants to play, so he could be useful in the right match-ups. In the Eastern Conference he operate as a low-post stopper against behemoths like Andre Drummond, Jonas Valanciunas, and Dwight Howard.
For what it's worth, Perkins still loves Boston. He gushed about their roster this past season, and in 2014 he even said he would return if the Celtics want him back.
"If the opportunity presents itself, I will," Perkins said. "But you never know. It's not on me. You have to be wanted to come back."
It's obvious the Celtics really want Durant. But it might help their chances if they want to bring back Perkins, too.