Lakers I Miss: Sam Perkins

Kurt —  August 11, 2007

Everyone talks about the guy drafted right before Michael Jordan, but the guy that was drafted right after him did pretty well for himself, too.

For Laker fans, Sam Perkins was the guy who gave the team its one win in the 1991 Finals against the finally mature Chicago Bulls, then helped the team during the start of the transition years before Shaq and Kobe. He was the prototype big guy with the sweet outside stroke, a guy who over his long career grabbed 11.9% of all the rebounds when he was on the floor and still shot 36.2% from three.

The Dallas Mavericks drafted Sam Perkins out of North Carolina and he played there six years before he opted for free agency and signed with the Lakers to play the power forward spot next to his college teammate James Worthy.

In the 90-91 season he provided some presence inside, helping Vlade Divac try to fill the shoes of the irreplaceable Kareem. He had some weight to throw around (he averaged 7.4 rebounds per game) but what he did best was shoot — the nickname “the big smooth” was fitting. He had a nice eFG% that first year with the Lakers of 50.7%, but after all the years of seeing Kareem and Rambis and classic inside players wearing Laker colors, a four who could shoot the three was a dramatic change. And a welcome one, spacing the floor for Magic and Worthy as they drove the lane. I remember marveling at his shot, it just always seemed that when it left Perkins’ hand it would touch only net. It was a pretty stroke.

Portland won the Pacific Division that 90-91 season (behind Clyde Drexler), ending the Lakers nine-year run atop the division. But in the playoffs, well, Portland has never fared particularly well against the Lakers. In the end, it was four games to two Lakers. Los Angels was on to the finals against a hungry Bulls team, led by another North Carolina guy in Jordan and coach by a guy named Phil Jackson.

In game one, it was a tightly contested first half, with Jordan taking charge for the Bulls (15 points and 5 assists in the first quarter) but they were never able to pull away. A third quarter run was led by Magic and some back-to-back threes (32 finished with a triple double) but Jordan and the bulls came back and took a 91-89 lead.

Then with 14 seconds left, Perkins buried a three. Jordan then missed on the other end (something he didn’t seem to do the rest of the series), Byron Scott drew a foul, hit one free throw and that was the final score.

The Lakers lost four straight after that, in large part because Scottie Pippen was moved over to cover Magic and it worked – Magic was less efficient. The Lakers never did a great job exploiting the other mismatches. Perkins hit a key shot in game three, but it was the Bulls time.

The next year Perkins missed 19 games but when on the floor he averaged 16 and 9. In the middle of the next season, Perkins was traded to Seattle, where he flourished with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp (he made the 1996 finals with the Sonics but again lost to Jordan and the Bulls). He was also on the 99-00 Pacers team that lost to Shaq and Kobe in the finals.

Perkins ended his career with a gold medal (he was co-captain of the 1984 team that won in Los Angeles) not to mention the NCAA title he won with Jordan and Worthy.



31 responses to Lakers I Miss: Sam Perkins

  1. I really like that suggestion regarding a senior-NBA tour. It gives a little something to the retirees…

    There is senior PGA and theres senior Tennis tour too.

    Magic and MJ would still be playing I guess… but it would only be 2 games a week.

  2. Did Perkins die or something?

  3. Have you been watching NBAtv’s greatest games as well? They’ve been showing lots of that “Jordan vs Magic” series and some Sonics games with him. He was pretty awesome. Ridiculous to think that Worthy, Perkins, and Jordan were all on the same NCAA team.

  4. LOL lakerade… we just miss those vets that are really effective at what they do. Makes us want to regret Horry and miss Rick Fox… good thing we have Fish back.

  5. 2. Perkins is fine, these slow days of summer are just a nice time to stroll down memory lane.

    I almost wrote more about that 82 North Carolina team and the finals that year — Worthy, Jordan and Perkins against Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown team. Classic, close game, wish I had that on DVD. Worthy made the key steal to seal the win.

  6. Sucks that the last two Magic Johnson Lakers Finals ended the way they did. The Lakers swept the entire western conference in 1989, but then got swept by the Pistons in the Finals. Mainly because Byron Scott missed the entire series and Magic pulled up lame with a hamstring pull in game 1 of that series. He tried to play through it, but obviously was not the same Magic. 1990 The Lakers had the best record in the league and looked to be on their way to another showdown with Detroit, but PHX and quick guard Kevin Johnson came out of nowhere and knocked the Lakers out in the first round. The Lakers looked like they were done, as Pat Riley had moved on to NBC and teams like Portland got much better. But of course, as Kurt mentioned above, Magic got the team to the Finals. Outside of the 2nd game, every single game of the series was competitive. The Lakers won game one on Perkins shot, and had game three in hand after Vlade’s miraculous three point play. You know, the one where he looks surprised that he made it and runs over like a school girl to celebrate with Magic. Lakers blew that game because they allowed MJ to come down the court on the next play, single covered by Bryon Scott and burry a relatively easy mid-range jumper. Game goes to overtime, Lakers lose. Series is 2-1 Bulls at that point, but with as tight as the games had been, it looked like the series would be going back to Chicago at some point. That is, until both James Worthy and Byron Scott come up lame in the middle of game 4 of the Finals. The Bulls were obviously the better team. But Magic had been overcoming the “better” teams the entire playoffs. However, once both Worthy and Scott were out of the picture, that series was done for. Worthy and Scott didn’t play at all in Game 5 and the Lakers had to play Rookies Elden Campbell and Tony Smith significant minutes. The game was still pretty close, but in the end without Scott and Worthy, the Bulls were too much for the Lakers. Two Finals series in a Row, Magic was denied a chance to win because of injury. People always talk about teams like the Bulls and Spurs greatness. But honestly, part of what allowed them to be great was the ability to keep their teams relatively healthy. The last three Finals loses by the Lakers have all been due to significant injuries. No Magic or Scott in 89. No Worthy or Scott in 91 and No Malone (who by the way was the MVP of that team that season…look at their record with and without him that season…and look what he did to Duncan and KG) in 2004. Damn the injury bug.

  7. My first memory ever was of Sam Perkins game winning shot in game one of the 1991 NBA Finals at a party at one of my parents friends house. I don’t remember anything else about the game, or really even the shot – but I do remember everybody yelling and jumping up and down afterwards and thinking ‘wow, this must be a big deal.’ How could I be anything but a Lakers fan from that point forward?

  8. I really don’t remember why the Lakers traded him…

  9. They traded him because they wanted Doug Christie and were looking to get younger.

  10. chris henderson August 11, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    I always said the worst trade the lakers ever made was the “sleepy” sam perkins for …as Jones says, doug Cristie, (who never panned out for LA), and …”oops, brought 2 left shoes” benoit Benjamin…man that one always haunted me. I can’t tell you how many times ol’ “sleepy” came back to put a nail in our coffin after that, no matter what team he played on, and just curious, how many years did he play after his teammates all retired? it seemed like forever…

  11. Sam also had a big part in something that has bugged my father for seven years, now.

    During a post-halftime/pre-second half interview with Larry Bird in Game 6 of the 2000 Finals, Perkins could be seen leaving the Pacers locker room with a plastic cub — the thick, clear kind you see being sold at basketball arenas and baseball stadiums nationwide — full of an amber, foamy, liquid. Perkins was in uniform.

    Now, I’d put the odds of Perkins openly drinking a beer before the final half of the 1999-00 season at about one in a gazillion, but I remember replaying the clip for my father a few weeks later; mainly because I couldn’t for the life of me guess what he could have possibly be drinking that looked so much like beer. It couldn’t have been any variation of Gatorade/Powerade/whatever; it was too thick and had a thin bit of foam around the top of the liquid that looks just like a domestic or moderately-priced import (your Heinekens, Becks’, etc). It bugged me for months. It’s bugged Dad for years.

    To him, that liquid is right up there with worrying about the guy that put all the cyanide in Tylenol caps around the year I was born.

    Had to vent. Thanks, Kurt. And, by extension, thanks Sam.

  12. the other Stephen August 12, 2007 at 9:40 am

    the only other excuses are pee and aple juice, but you really can’t deny them hops.

  13. Yeah, because he carved a niche for himself as an outside shooter in the latter years of his career, he was able to stick around for a long time, even after his mobility had already left him.

  14. To KD @ 11

    I remember as a kid watching Clippers and Lakers games and I am 42 so you know I love hoops if I was watching the Clippers! Anyway they used to do half time interviews (from a tape) and post game interviews live. It was after a Clippers game and Bill Walton had a Bud in his hand he was not hiding well. It bothered me too!!!!!! It is funny when Bill is remembered they never speakof the Clipper years, I like Bill now he has settled down as an annoucner but he had those years as a Clipper, sipping suds on TV and in one game throwwnig his show that came off at a ball in flight.

  15. Apple juice was the closest color, but like you said, it didn’t explain the white foam. Unless Big Smooth likes his apple juice shaken, not stirred. Actually, that makes sense.

    I used to love Bill rambling on about Corona during some Corona-sponsored stat graphic during Clipper games from a few years ago.

  16. Christford Morancie August 12, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Here is a proposed trade,

    Lakers send:

    Andrew Bynum
    Sasha Vujacic
    Brian Cook
    Lamar Odom

    Pacers Send:

    Jermaine O’neil
    Danny Grander
    Shawne Williams
    Protected 1st Round Pick

    This would work for everyone because the Pacers (Larry Bird) would feel that he obtained Bynum and Odom for
    Jermaine O’neil. Bynum and Odom for O’neil is a deal definetly in the Pacers favor in my opinion. However,
    that would be offset by the Lakers Getting a SF/SG/PF type player in Danny Granger + A kid with lots of potential
    in Shawne Williams + a Protected first round pick for Brian Cook and Sasha Vujacic with both salaries coming off
    the book in the next two years.The lakers would gain in this apect of the deal, therefore offsetting the lobsided
    nature of the primiere portion of the deal.

    The Pacers get what they want in Bynum and Odom plus some reserve players, while the lakers get two possible
    starting additions in Granger and O’neil. These are important defensive additions to a soft team. With Kobe
    Bryant it is important to note that the lakers can score the ball, but need help stopping the ball. With Granger, Williams
    and the Protected first round pick, the lakers also have hope for the future.

    The incoming pieces give Phil Jackson exactly what he likes, the ability to go big and use different lineups when needed.
    In addition all the salaries (for incoming laker pieces) expire in two years. This can be viewed as a two year experiment,
    which I feel very assured would result in at least 1 Western Conference Final.

    Derek Fisher / Jordan Farmer / Javaris Crittenton
    Kobe Bryant / Maurice Evans
    Luke Walton / Danny Granger/Shawne Williams
    Jermaine Oneil / Radmonavic / Roony Turiaf
    Kwame Brown / Chris Mihm

    Radmonavic Spilt Time at Forward Positions

    Starting Lineup

    Derek Fisher – PG
    Kobe Bryant – SG
    Luke Walton – SF
    Jermaine O’neil – PF
    Kwame Brown – C

    Defensive Lineup

    Derek Fisher – PG
    Kobe Bryant – SG
    Danny Granger – SF
    Jermaine O’neil – PF
    Kwame Brown – C

    Offensive Lineup

    Jordon Farmer – PG
    Kobe Bryant – SG
    Danny Granger – SF
    Radmonavic – PF
    Jermaine O’neil – C

    Second Unit (When Kobe Rests)

    Jordon Farmer – PG
    Maurice Evans – SG
    Luke Walton – SF
    Radmanovic – PF
    Jermaine O’neil – C

    Energy Unit

    Javaris Crittenton
    Kobe Bryant
    Maurice Evans
    Ronny Turiaf
    Jermaine O’neil

    Big Lienup

    Kobe Bryant – PG
    Luke Walton – SG
    Radmonovic – SF
    Jermaine O’neil – PF
    Kwame Brown – C

    Small Ball Lineup

    Jordon Farmer – PG
    Derek Fisher – SG
    Kobe Bryant – SF
    Danny Granger – PF
    Jermaine O’neil – C

  17. Wild Trade Speculation again…

  18. heres some wild trade speculation…

    build a time machine and go back to 1980’s and bring back the shiowtime Lakers. I don’t think the Spurs could handle the size, speed or shooting ability.

  19. These trades are getting out of control, this is not a trade site.

    And the Pacers are not trading Granger in any Jo deal, he is a key part of their rebuilding. Know the team you are trading with.

  20. These are the dog days of August. Kurt, I think you should give up on any meaningful comments about the current Laker situation. Love the discussion on the big smooth, however. Of course my vote for the smoothest player in NBA history is Keith Wilkes, opps, Jamal Wilkes.

    We never give enough props to those players who make things look so easy it seems they are never trying.

  21. Kurt, I hope you do a Farmar vs Crittetnton comparison. It would make an interesting debate.

  22. How about this– persuade Sam Perkins to come out of retirement, then trade him for JO.

  23. Crittetnton has not even played a game yet

  24. 21. Warren, it is way, way to early to have that debate in my mind. Let’s let Javaris play a season or two, and see how far Farmar progressed.

    22. Now that’s an idea I like. And we already know Perkins likes the beer at The Field House in Indy.

  25. I loved Perkins!! I was surprised to see him in the background of a picture or clip recently doing something with the NBA.

    Not that Perkins was a member of those teams, but I watched an old Laker game from the Showtime Era this weekend and it still amazes me to no end how good they were. Everyone makes a big stink about how potent and efficient the Suns offense is these days, but if you look at the stats of some of those Lakers teams it’s mind-boggling.

    I’m a tad bummed that I was as young as I was when they peaked since I didn’t get to fully appreciate what they were doing.

  26. I say we bring Sedale Threatt back and play him. He was automatic going to his left. He is a top 5 all time favorite of mine. I had a lot of fun watching the big smooth years and the ones following it with Peeler, Lynch, Vlade, Campbell, van exel.

    Chick always had problems figuring out who was who between peeler, sedale, and van exel. His Birds eye View showed him 3 bald heads. =)

  27. the other Stephen August 13, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    I still have all these Sedale Threatt trading cards sitting around, and I have no idea why.

  28. Now there’s a Laker I miss… Lynch!

    I really miss him… and now that Penny Hardaway is back (loved his game back then) on the NBA, I might just watch Blue Chips all over again…

    (Lynch was a Hoosier)

  29. For those that like Sedale and haven’t been around this site for a couple years:

    (The comments on that post are turned off.)

  30. Thanks for the link to that old Sedale post of yours. I’ve only been around on your site for a year now so never saw that one. Its a shame to read about his personal problems, but as a Laker I will always have great memories of him.