Perkins gamble paying off for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Year Two

Sinai Says: Maccabi has had its fair share of steals over the years, but signing of Perkins may be one of club's greatest bargains in history.

Doron Perkins 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Doron Perkins 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Doron Perkins was very much an afterthought last season.
With 12 players already on its roster before the 2009/10 season, including six foreigners, Maccabi Tel Aviv assistant coach Sharon Drucker had to toil to convince the club’s management that Perkins could be an effective back-up for the side’s starting guards.
It took some persuading before Shimon Mizrahi, David Federman and company finally yielded to Drucker’s request, handing Perkins one of the cheapest contracts on the team, estimated to be around $200,000 a season.
Maccabi has had its fair share of steals over the years, but if the start of the current campaign is any indication, Tel Aviv’s signing of Perkins will go down as one of the greatest bargains in club history.
The Anchorage, Alaska, native is the definition of a basketball journeyman.
The first five years of his professional career saw the 27- year-old guard play for five different teams in four different countries, starting in Japan and passing through Germany and Belgium before arriving in Israel.
After two seasons at littleknown Southwestern Oregon Community College, Perkins starred for Santa Clara University for two years, averaging 15.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists as a senior.
However, despite conducting personal workouts with the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, Perkins went undrafted in the 2005 NBA draft, leaving him to pursue his dream of playing pro basketball in foreign lands.
Perkins has never been one to shy away from hard work, and by playing his heart out night after night in nearempty gyms across the world, he slowly began climbing up the rungs of international basketball.
An MVP award and championship title with the Tokyo Alvark led to a contract with Baskets Oldenburg. After a successful campaign in Germany he moved on to Euphony Bree, ending the season as the Belgian league’s MVP after taking the team to the playoff finals.
The summer of 2008 brought Perkins to Israel, with newly-promoted Maccabi Haifa signing him as its playmaker.
Perkins didn’t disappoint, averaging 20.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.8 steals in the postseason, taking Haifa to the BSL title game after leading the team to the State Cup final earlier in the year.
Nevertheless, the guard’s enthusiastic – but often erratic – play meant that both Israel’s and Europe’s big clubs remained wary of adding him to their rosters, until, of course, Drucker came along.
Drucker never got the chance to fully reap the rewards of his calculated risk, having been sacked by the club along with head coach Pini Gershon at the end of last season.
However, Perkins has since come to personify David Blatt’s new Maccabi team.
What he lacks in talent, he more than makes up in flair, and while he might not always shine offensively, he will never back down on the defensive end.
What makes Perkins’s passion so valuable is the fact that it is so infectious, with even the likes of Sofoklis Schortsanitis and Lior Eliyahu suddenly taking pride in their defensive work.
After averaging 9.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists in the Euroleague last season, Maccabi renegotiated Perkins’s contract in the summer and handed him an extension until the end of the 2011/12 season.
On the face of it, the guard’s numbers have taken a hit this season. He has averaged just 6.3 points in Tel Aviv’s first four Euroleague games, while also grabbing 5.0 rebounds, dishing 4.0 assists and registering 3.0 steals.
But despite not having scored more than seven points in any of the team’s continental games to date, anyone who watched his performance in the 78-76 victory at BC Khimki Moscow last Thursday saw how a player can take over a game even without putting the ball in the basket.
Perkins ended the game with an underwhelming four points, six rebounds and three assists. However, it was his leadership on both ends of the floor that allowed Maccabi to come back from a seven-point fourth quarter deficit to claim a dramatic win.
Besides holding Khimki star Keith Langford to a mere nine points, eight less than his previous season low, Perkins also grabbed four offensive rebounds in the final period that collectively led to 10 points, including David Blu’s game-winning three-pointer in the dying seconds.
After trotting the globe for years in the hope of making a living through basketball, it seems that the journeyman has finally found himself a home.
Maccabi is a long shot to win the Euroleague this season and may well not even make the Final Four.
However, thanks to Perkins, the side is playing better than the sum of its parts, and when that happens, there is no telling how far a team can go.