You would think that news about internal conflict in the Thunder locker room would come from the Daily Oklahoman, or, you know, someone west of the Mississippi. But the New York Daily News Saturday brought a hefty piece of intrigue to its pages regarding the Thunder. Apparently Kendrick Perkins’ arrival in OKC was controversial and brought some player unhappiness. And not just in the Celtics. From the Daily News:
As much as coach Scott Brooks chafes at GM Sam Presti’s meddling, his presence in the locker room, and his demands that the Thunder continue to improve from within, the organization is a lot more concerned with how Kendrick Perkins treats Russell Westbrook.
After arriving from the Celtics last season and being looked at as the veteran leader Oklahoma City needed to take the next step to compete for a title, Perkins went hard at Westbrook with his verbal criticisms, often saying that the Thunder’s playmaker couldn’t match Rajon Rondo as a playmaker. Those words didn’t sit well with Westbrook, who already had been criticized for shooting too much and was the subject of a benching heard-round-the-NBA when the Thunder played the Mavs in June.
It seems unlikely that Perkins would come in complaining to a locker room he doesn’t know, especially when he wasn’t at full strength at any point last year. It’s not like Perkins made a huge impact on the Thunder’s season. His defense was fine enough, but Kendrick Perkins wasn’t the difference=maker in their making the Western Conference Finals. He struggled guarding Zach Randolph (along with the rest of the Western world). And he was largely ineffective in the WCF versus Tyson Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki. So for him to point fingers sounds a little nuts.
Furthermore, Perkins has never been known to be that kind of trouble maker. Still, it wouldn’t shock anyone to think some Thunder players had issues with Westbrook’s hyper-aggressiveness. But comparing him to Rondo is a bit absurd, considering Westbrook can shoot circles around Rondo and Westbrook isn’t flanked by three Hall of Famers. The Thunder have built their success on chemistry and closeness. Any rumor of disconnect is going to send ripples and, true or not, annoy the team when it reconvenes after the lockout.