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Just before the end of the regular season, the Wine & Gold bolstered their bench by inking veteran big man Kendrick Perkins for the rest of the season.
Perkins won a Championship with Boston in 2008 and was part of the Cavaliers’ 2015 Finals run. He came to Training Camp this fall and spent a portion of this season with the Canton Charge, appearing in 27 games (17 starts) – averaging 8.7 points and 7.2 boards on 53 percent shooting from the floor.
In this installment of "Providing the Spark" presented by Phantom Fireworks, we sat down with Big Perk to talk Pacers, G League and his first career Playoff experience off the bench …
What’s your assessment of the Game 1 loss on Sunday?
Kendrick Perkins: Well, I think (Indiana) just came out and punched us in the mouth. I think they came out with a physical mindset, they put pressure on us, they knocked us off our spots.
But I just think we need to be more physical in Game 2. We didn't play basketball the way we're capable of playing. So, we've just been emphasizing being more physical and being ready for the challenge.
Plus, you had a couple of guys – it was their first time being in the Playoffs and a couple of guys who haven't been in a while.
That's no excuse, but it's always good to get that first game under your belt -- good or bad.
Were you nervous in your first Playoff appearance?
Perkins: It was the craziest thing – my first time ever playing in a Playoff game, it was my second year. We were playing against the Pacers and I didn't play.
And Paul (Pierce) and Jamaal Tinsley had gotten into some kind of altercation and Paul got kicked out. But he had gotten fouled before that, so they had to pick a free throw shooter and they wound up picking me. I missed both – but we won the game.
But I was nervous and all (messed) up about it. It was loud and crazy in there!
What’s your role with the team here in the postseason?
Perkins: Well, you know I just come in and I just do my job, work hard and just be here for any guy who needs any type of advice.
Whether I suit up or not, I'm still gonna come in and punch the clock and do whatever it takes -- bring that experience. And if T. Lue calls my name, I’ll be ready.
What are some of the similarities and differences from your first go-round in 2015?
Perkins: You have a couple new faces, but you have guys that are hungry. You can just feel the energy level. The vibe is good.
It feels good to be around young guys who listen -- guys like J.C. (Jordan Clarkson), and Larry (Nance Jr.), who's like a sponge. It feels good to be around those guys, and I think that's the biggest difference.
But you've still got LeBron, KLove, JR, Tristan -- a good core group has got a lot of experience.
After Monday’s practice, the coaches all gathered around you afterward. What are those meetings like?
Perkins: Well, I love picking the coach's brain, just to see where everybody's at.
And sometimes it is better that way, because if I'm getting a good feel of what the coach is thinking, sometimes I can relay the message to some of the guys in a different tone so they'll know what the coaches expect of him.
You got a huge ovation when you appeared in the regular season finale. How does it feel to be a fan favorite?
Perkins: (laughs) You know what, I didn't know I was a fan favorite until then. But it felt great, man. It felt great just to be embraced in that way, and it makes you want to come in and work harder every day.
You can go a lot of places where you're not accepted. That's the biggest thing, being accepted – not just by the Cavs but by the whole community. You go into a store and people say: 'Hey Perk, it's great to have you back' or something like that.
It feels great and it's humbling and at the end of the day it just makes you work that much harder.
You did a lot of work with rookie Ante Zizic this year. How do you feel he’s progressed?
Perkins: You know what? I think he plays his ass off. Every time he got the opportunity, I think he played well. I think he played good minutes and fit his role to a T.
I always knew he could score, but I was more impressed with him on the defensive end -- blocking shots and altering shots at the rim. And he keeps getting better.
And during the season, when he wasn't getting playing time, they didn't choose to send him to Canton, he asked to go to Canton. And you like that kind of hunger in a younger guy.
So, I kind of took Big Z under my wing and we kind of rock together a little bit.
Did your time in the G League give you a new appreciation for what those guys go through?
Perkins: Oh, absolutely! Every G League player, man, I love to death because I know at the end of the day, there's a lot of guys down there who are making a sacrifice, passing up big money from overseas just to try to reach their goal of being in the NBA.
I've got so much respect for those guys.
What do the Cavs need to do to get this series back in their favor?
Perkins: Well, we’ve just got to go out there and be more physical. I think we know what we have to do.
It's not panic mode, but we're kind of in a must-win situation on Wednesday, for sure. We just have to take this one game at a time -- not look too far ahead. We just have to take care of Wednesday and after that we'll worry about Friday and then Sunday.
But we need to come out on Wednesday and hit 'em good.
Here’s a look at some of the top Playoff performances by past Cavaliers' reserves …
Donyell Marshall – 2006 First Round - Game 6 vs. Washington – In just 14 seconds off the bench, Damon Jones stole the thunder from Donyell Marshall in the Cavaliers’ first Playoff series win in 13 years. D. Jones famously hit the game-winner in overtime, giving Cleveland the dramatic 114-113 victory, but it was Marshall that put the Wine & Gold in that position – scoring 28 points in 29 minutes off the bench, going 11-for-15 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from three-point range to go with eight boards.
Hot Rod Williams – 1992 First Round - Game 4 vs. New Jersey – The Cavaliers hadn’t won a Playoff series since the Miracle of Richfield in 1976 when the Cavaliers moved past the New Jersey Nets in four games to begin their run to the Eastern Conference Finals. One of the greatest reserves in team history, Williams scored double-figures in 30 of his 39 games off the bench in the postseason, with 10 games of double-digit boards. But one of his best came in an elimination game against New Jersey in which he came off the bench to tally 20 points, 13 boards, five steals and a pair of blocks.
Daniel Gibson – 2007 Eastern Conference Finals - Game 7 vs. New Jersey – After LeBron’s epic Game 5 performance in Detroit, the Cavs came home for Game 6 looking to punch a ticket to the franchise’s first trip to the Finals. But it wasn’t James who led the way – instead deferring to red-hot rookie Boobie Gibson, who had a game for the ages – canning all five three-pointers he attempted, going 7-of-9 from the floor overall and 12-of-15 from the stripe, finishing with 31 points and effectively ending Detroit’s dominance of the East.