July 19, 2006
Based on guaranteed contracts and limited roster spots, Doron Perkins is facing an uphill challenge in order to catch on with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, Perkins has done nothing to hurt his chances based on how he's played on the court in the Summer Pro League in Long Beach this summer. In front of his college coach on July 14, Perkins led the team in scoring with 19 points, making 5 of 9 shots and was a disruptive force on the defensive end. The only shaky effort was the first game where he felt the pressure to do something right away to make an impression.
"The first game I came out and I was really nervous," said Perkins, who still led the team with 7 rebounds. "After awhile, I didn't want to feel like I had to go out there and prove anything; I just wanted play my game and hopefully that would be enough for anyone that's interested in me. I do have a lot to prove, but the best way to do that is to go out there and be calm and not worry about doing anything spectacular."
During Perkins' two years at Santa Clara, fans didn't dare making a run for the concession stand for fear of missing something spectacular. An All-WCC performer as a senior, he led the team in scoring but really earned a reputation as a lockdown defender. In San Diego in 2005, Perkins broke a record that had stood for 20 years by recording 10 steals, an outstanding number for an entire team. In a near upset of Gonzaga in the conference semifinals in '04, Perkins scored 25 points from all angles while locking up two-time player of the year Blake Stepp. That was one of the games that showed Perkins he could play at the next level.
For a season, the next level was Japan where he was named the league's MVP, the league's import player of the year for a team that won the championship. The year overseas was the springboard to a shot with the Lakers in the Long Beach summer league.
"I worked out for them (the Lakers) last year and they showed a lot of interest and throughout the season in Japan my agent kept in touch with them. He let them know how I was doing throughout the year. As soon as the season started in Japan, they invited me to summer league so I knew I had a spot on the summer roster awhile ago."
The basketball skills have improved along with a mastery of chop sticks. But the biggest improvement Perkins has made is in how he views himself now as compared to before his stint in Japan.
"I think I have a lot more confidence now. I've improved my shooting but I have a lot more confidence in everything. Now, when I take a shot, I know I'm going to make it."
League observers have said Perkins' game is better than two guards the Lakers have already signed, so this two-week period may be an audition for somewhere else based on the team already making a commitment to other players.
First round picks are getting the bulk of the minutes with free agents getting whatever time is left. Perkins is making the most of what he's getting. On Tuesday, he scored 13 points in only 13 minutes on 5 of 9 shooting, including 2 of 3 on three-pointers and two steals. The Lakers eyes have been opened and so have others from different NBA teams.
"Right now, I'm thinking about catching on somewhere after this experience," said Perkins. "I just want to go out and play to the best of my capabilities. Even if I don't get to play with the Lakers, hopefully some other teams out there will show some interest."
Long Beach is where players have come from all over the world to chase a dream. For some, it's their final chance with a unique bond formed among men who are competing for a livelihood.
"It is sort of weird but everyone knows what everyone is trying to do. On the court we compete real hard but off the court it's kind of like college. Everyone talks about where they've been whether it's college or overseas. Everybody is just trying to get a job. "
I knew Perkins would play professionally after the upset of North Carolina when I saw him hang athletically with Rashad McCants and Sean May. That day, I wouldn't have taken a single Tar Heel over a Bronco with everyone from Niesen to Bailey to Rohde showing what focus and determination can do against a world of doubters. Coming from Alaska, Doron Perkins has heard the doubters after a high school injury that took him to junior college. From there, there weren't calls from Duke like fellow Alaskans Trajan Langdon and Carlos Boozer. The doubters kept talking through his time at Santa Clara and beyond.
Fortunately, Perkins heard only his own voice. He didn't acknowledge those who disbelieved. If not the Lakers then it will be somewhere else. Not listening all the way to the NBA.
For more info on the Summer Pro League click here