Phil Jackson, the L.A. Lakers coach with the uncontrollable tongue, came through town three weeks ago and questioned Kendrick Perkins' leadership.
Three days prior, the Oklahoma City Thunder had acquired the 6-foot-10 center in a four-player trade with Boston. Jackson wasn't as impressed with the deal for Oklahoma City as many throughout the NBA were.
“Kendrick's a pretty young guy,” Jackson started. “I don't know how much experience he has if (Kevin) Garnett's not talking in his ear and sending him where to go. I think he's got the notion. But whether he can be a leader and lead (the Thunder), that's another story.”
Perkins is on record of not being a member of the Jackson fan club. An ESPN reporter recently quoted Perkins as saying the coach is arrogant. And Perkins didn't hesitate to dismiss Jackson's latest comments.
“I don't listen to Phil anyway,” Perkins said. “Everything he says ain't what's right. At the end of the day, I learned a lot where I came from. I'm just trying to install it here and just keep pushing.”
Jackson hasn't been the only person to question how effective Perkins would be without Garnett. But judging by his first four games in a Thunder uniform, Perkins hasn't had any problems providing leadership. Perkins' imprint has been present since he debuted in a 27-point win at Washington last Monday.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks saw it long before then.
“I've seen it from the first day that he was on our bench in a suit talking to the guys when he wasn't playing,” Brooks said. “That's important. You just don't want to be a communicator when things are going well. And he had just got traded and was trying to figure out ways to help us improve.”
Whenever the Thunder has had a defensive lapse, it's been Perkins who has held players accountable now that he's on the court. We've seen more examples of that from Perkins in four games than the Thunder showed in 60-plus games before Perkins joining the lineup.