Kendick Perkins has been to the NBA mountaintop, winning a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008 and going back to the Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015.
So it speaks volumes that the 33-year veteran of 13 NBA seasons was willing to spend the majority of the 2017-18 season with the Canton Charge, the Cavaliers’ G League affiliate, which he described as a “very humbling” experience.
“The G League experience is probably something that needed to happen for me because you take for granted all the little things the NBA brings, like having the nice facilities or having the cold tub or having people here to help you get better every day at a high level,” Perkins, who was signed for the rest of the season by Cleveland on Wednesday morning, said before the Cavaliers’ loss to the New York Knicks in the final game of the regular season Wednesday night.
“I’ve been able to ride on a private jet or stay at the best hotels. You take that for granted and think it’s supposed to be given until it’s taken away from you,” he continued. “Then, you experience what I experienced in the G League. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it wasn’t just like heaven, either.”
The 6-foot-10, 270-pound center said the experience took him back to the basics of basketball. With the Charge, Perkins played in 27 games, averaging 8.7 points and 7.2 rebounds in 21.3 minutes, shooting 52.9 percent from the field.
“It was very humbling, I tell you that,” he said. “A couple 12-hour bus rides in the snow. Waking up, having nine- or 10-hour travel days when you’re just going from Cleveland to Florida, it’s definitely humbling.
“It makes you appreciate all the little things that go on in the NBA.”
One particular G League experience at a hotel in Maine stood out for Perkins.
“It was bad, it was real bad. I don’t even want to get into details,” Perkins said. “That was the first time that I kind of just left on my own and went and got my own room and stayed away. I didn’t want to put myself above anybody, so I kind of stuck with the program.
“Whatever everybody else had to do, my teammates, I made sure I did it. We rode in coach and if we were cramped up, we were all cramped up. I wasn’t going to buy myself a first-class ticket and sit in the front. I wanted to have the whole experience.”
He left the Charge in early February and went home. There, he said he continued to work out, prayed constantly and waited and hoped for his phone to ring, with an NBA team on the line.
That having been accomplished, Perkins’ return to the NBA became official Wednesday night as he played in his first NBA game since April 13, 2016, when he entered the contest against New York on Wednesday night at 6:52 to play in the third quarter, drawing a loud ovation from the sellout crowd of 20,562.
In 14 minutes of playing time, Perkins scored three points, making one of the two shots he took, grabbing one rebound and handing out a pair of assists.
With a reputation of a tough, hard-nosed teammate and well known and respected across the NBA landscape, will be a valuable resource, especially for young big man Larry Nance Jr., who along with former Lakers teammate Jordan Clarkson, will be making his first appearance in the postseason Sunday when the Cavaliers host the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of first-round Eastern Conference series.
Perkins, who has played 143 playoff games in his career, was given the locker next to Nance.
“I just want to come in and bring experience,” Perkins said. “Work hard every day and keep reminding guys what’s the goal at hand, what we’re trying to accomplish and what we’re trying to get done is bigger than one individual.
“Just want to make sure you put in the groundwork every day, punch in the clock, pay attention to the little things to try to get what we’re all trying to get done. Try do my role, lead by example, speak when I need to speak and that’s about it.”
In addition to Nance, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue believes Perkins will carry some weight with other big guys Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love.
“I think Tristan and Kevin really respect him a lot,” Lue said. “He’s always preaching the right message. It’s all about team, it’s all about the right things and when guys miss defensive assignments he calls those guys out.
“So, I mean, it’s just good to have him in the locker room and have him back in the fold to really be with Tristan, be there for Kevin and also show these new guys just a championship pedigree — how to win and what it takes to win a championship.”