Kendrick Perkins does things that don't show up in the box score.

How many times have we heard that?

It's long been the Thunder's counter argument in defense of its starting center's subpar statistics.

But that logic is running out of rope after three straight seasons of plummeting production from Perkins. By almost every measure, this year was the worst season of Perk's career.

And nobody seems to have an answer as to why.

Is it the rash of injuries and mounting surgeries?

“I don't want to blame it on that,” Perk said, “because I always feel like if I'm out there I should be able to get the job done.”

Is the Thunder so talented that it couldn't use a steady stream of points, rebounds and blocked shots from Perk?

“With us, we don't need the scoring,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We need his toughness. We need his defense. We need his ability to guard.”

But why can't Perkins be a stat sheet stuffer?

Why can't he provide the most basic plays from his position next season?

Because we now know Perkins will in fact be back next season. Thunder general manager Sam Presti recently put to rest any and all doubts over whether Perkins will be waived under the league's amnesty clause. So that ship — at least for this summer — has sailed.

At this point it's more productive to focus on how Perk can come back better.

The Thunder is on the hook for two more seasons of a contract with Perkins that once seemed like a sweetheart deal. He's owed roughly $19 million over the next two years and appears entrenched as the starter; partly because that's such a sizable salary, partly because the Thunder doesn't have a better option, partly because Brooks is hesitant to change a lineup that has had so much success and partly because Perk does indeed still make a positive impact.

Another year of dwindling production, however, and Perk's good might no longer outweigh his bad. Brooks already has become more judicious with Perk's minutes, decreasing his average playing time in each of the past three postseasons.

It reached a head when, in Game 6 against Houston, Brooks, for the first time, replaced Perkins to start the third quarter after it had become clear that the Thunder's big lineup was being outperformed by the Rockets' small lineup.

Only time will tell whether the trend of diminishing minutes is a sign of things to come or something that will drive Perkins to play better.

“When we had everybody whole, he was a big part of what we do,” Brooks said. “Going forward, I expect that to be the same.”