Just before the 2011 NBA trade deadline, the Boston Celtics made a move that surprised many. They traded Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Perkins had been a starter and a key cog in the team's 2008 championship run, so many were surprised to see the then-26-year-old shipped out.
However, Perkins recently opened up on the trade and explained that he actually thought that the move was a smart one. The reason for that? Perkins was likely to leave the squad in free agency.
“I knew I was getting traded," Perkins said on The Hoop Collective Podcast with Brian Windhorst. "Danny and I used to meet in his office all the time. And I remember he pitched a deal to me. I was just coming off a four-year, $16 million deal, and he was like ‘Perk, we love you, we don’t have the money, but would you be willing to take another deal, but you’ll make $6 million a year,’ and I was like ‘well Danny, I’m 25, I’m looking at starting centers right now and their average salary is $10 (million)-plus’ and he could respect that.
"So, I was hurt that the team was still having success with Jermaine O'Neal and Shaq (and) was still at the top of the East. So, it surprised everybody else but it didn’t surprise me. And, I was not mad at Danny because Danny could have sent me anywhere. He sent me to place that he knew was they going to pay me what I was worth. So it wasn’t a bad trade on Danny’s part because I was leaving Boston anyway that summer, so it was actually a smart move by Danny.”
Of course, at the time of the trade, Perkins was just coming back from an ACL injury that had sidelined him until January of that season, which is why he referenced the team having success without him. Ainge elected to part with Perkins and trust those veterans while trying to bring another asset, Jeff Green, into the fold.
The Perkins trade ultimately didn't work out for Boston. Green never developed into the top-end player that the team envisioned while both of the O'Neal's had issues in the 2011 playoffs en route to a second-round exit.
That said, if Ainge did know that Perkins wouldn't be returning, then this deal certainly made more sense than many thought at the time. And given that Perkins didn't produce much during his time with the Thunder (4.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG), he didn't miss out too much by dealing Perkins away.
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