Like many folks these days, Kendrick Perkins is out of work. And, unless the bosses and his union representatives start getting along a lot better, he may not get back to work this year. The difference between Perkins and the average unemployed Joe Six Pack is Kendrick is 6’10” and plays basketball for a living – and he’d like to get back to it.
The former Boston Celtics star is now a key player for the NBA’s Oklahoma Thunder. He’s locked out without a contract alongside his fellow players as the summer-long work stoppage has extended in the fall – wiping out the preseason and the first month of the regular season en route. It’s the fan-offending mess the NFL avoided earlier this year when that league averted a work stoppage at the zero hour.
For NBA players like Perkins, the real mystery playing out during the lockout is the growing apathy of fans. It seems even the most hardcore roundball fanatics can do without pro basketball and survive. The reality of many NBA teams losing money brought on the lockout, and the possibility of half-empty arenas after the lock-out doesn’t bode well for the future of pro basketball.
As the league braces for the potential nuclear disaster of a full cancelled season, Perkins waits to see if he’ll rejoin his teammates in 2011. And, he wonders how the fans will react when they tip it up again at center court.
CRAVEONLINE: While you wait for the lockout to end, you know you’re not going to have much time to prepare for competition when training camp opens. How are you staying in shape in the meantime?
Kendrick Perkins: I just look to play as much ball as I can with other NBA players and at colleges. But I know there’s “in shape” and “in NBA shape,” so we’ll have to get to it hard once we’re back in camp.
CRAVEONLINE: While your union bosses negotiate with the owners to end the lockout, do you and your fellow players keep up with the ins and outs of the discussions?
Kendrick Perkins: We know they’re in there more than eight hours a day with the owners trying to work something out. Our guys aren’t saying too much. As a group, I think (our negotiators) are keeping it in house. If the way it was before wasn’t working, it has to change. We want to play – to get back at it. Every player wants that. The owners want that. I think (NBA Commissioner) David Stern wants that. But, we have to fight for what we think is right and wait for a deal that’s fair to both sides.
CRAVEONLINE: To many of the fans, this is an argument between millionaires and billionaires. Are you and your fellow players convinced those fans will forgive the loss of so many games and return to the stands?
Kendrick Perkins: I expect the fans to be excited to see us get started up again. I think the fans have the idea that we’re on strike, but the players want to play.
CRAVEONLINE: Recently, Bryant Gumbel looked at the NBA lockout and compared David Stern to a plantation owner. The insinuation is that NBA players are slaves. Did you agree with that statement?
Kendrick Perkins: Bryant Gumbel is a respected reporter, and he spoke his mind. I don’t think anybody should be upset about it. Just because that’s his point of view, it doesn’t mean it’s true or that every player feels that way. It’s his opinion, and nobody told him to say it.
CRAVEONLINE: But, what was YOUR personal take?
Kendrick Perkins: When I heard, I was just saying, “Let’s not add fuel to the fire.” Statements like that don’t help and don’t bring us any closer together.
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