Explosive night in Memphis for the OKC Thunder


The game was supposed to be the first real road test for the young Thunder this season. A matchup against another up-and-coming Western Conference contender that took the Thunder through a brutal 7-game series in the playoffs last year.

The Thunder answered that challenge with a convincing win on the road without ever really trailing, but no one is talking about the game. Instead two major story lines emerged to create drama for the Thunder.

Russell Westbrook vs. Kevin Durant — the Thrilla in M…M…Memphis?

Westbrook and Durant were involved in a major argument on the Thunder bench in the middle of the game. The two had to be separated and were so heated the first few rows of the Memphis crowd stood to get a better look at the throwdown.

Russ was in the middle of one of his worst nights of his career on the court. He finished 0-for-13 from the field. He was beyond frustrated and KD stepping up as a leader didn’t set well with him. Give the two credit for brushing it off and finishing the game strong to get the win. KD was unstoppable and Russ manned up to take the last in-bounds pass knowing he’d have to hit two free throws to seal the game, which he did.

But the two will be something to watch going forward. They say everything is fine, it’s just two competitive guys. That could be true. It could be one or the other will eventually get tired of it also. All the other guys are talented and competitive and we don’t see them getting into yelling matches in the huddle. Makes that Westbrook/Perkins for Howard trade idea seem a little bit better now.

Kendrick Perkins vs. Chris Webber

In his new role on TV, Webber has been opening critical of Perkins’ defensive skills. He’s called him an overrated defender. He’s said his reputation is in the media and not with the players. He’s said he has no lift so offensive players are confident they can get their shot off over him. Webber played against Perkins, so he’s speaking from experience.

Perkins fired back on twitter saying, “and im tired of chris webber hatin on me get a ring first and then i can respect ya comments other wise keep my name out of ya mouth.”  To be fair, Webber was always the best player on those Kings teams that he got pretty close to a ring, while Perk had the benefit of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett at his side to get his one ring in Boston.  Perk should address the comments as a challenge and not distract with a poorly backed insult.

Last season Perkins was overweight and out of shape. He’ll admit that. The knee injury is the reason, but there is really no good reason for that for a professional athlete. Even with a knee injury you can work out and eat right. The team was making a run to the Western Conference Finals. That should have been motivation. He was an non-factor against Memphis and sat on the bench mostly through key stretches, while Collison came in to spark the team in the middle. He absolutely couldn’t finish offensively.

This season, Perkins has lost 30 pounds and we’re told he’s at 100%.  The man in the middle for OKC had four rebounds in the win last night. He’s averaging 5.3 rebounds a game. The guys he was guarding last night at different times, each had 12. He still having stretches where he doesn’t run the floor because he’s out of breath. There aren’t many practices in this condensed season to work on conditioning, so Perk has to address this on his own. It’s not “hatin,” it’s an issue.

As the season goes on, Perkins performance will get more attention. This is his season to prove things have changed. It’s only three games in, so he can’t expect everyone to be sold just yet. He addressed the issue again this morning on twitter in two tweets saying, “…But to say on TV that I’m not a one on one defender was very disrespectful when I defend night in and night out, one on one…So that’s just it I felt real disrespected about that when I do this every night from my Boston days to my OKC days.”

Perkins has not been a one-on-one defender down low last year or this year in OKC. Not too many people in the NBA are really.

Against the Magic it was a team effort against Dwight Howard as expected. Last night, he was getting double team help with either Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol. Memphis isolated Z-Bo twice late in the game to go at Perkins guarding him, OKC brought help. Dallas helped the cause by getting rid of Tyson Chandler, so tonight it should be a good night for Perk. But he has something to prove to everyone this year. He can do it, or people will be agreeing with Webber as the season goes along.