Forward Malik Rose arrived late in the season after a trade with the New York Knicks. He marveled at a young Thunder team’s chemistry. Maybe too good.
"When I got here, I was happy to see there weren’t cliques, like five guys hang out and these three don’t talk to anybody,” Rose said. "Everybody was joking around. "On the flip side, practices were too fun. A little elbow or a little fight here or there in practice, being physical, pushing and shoving is good. But when you step off the court, it’s great to get back to being best friends, being close, hanging out and joking.” Some call it grit. During this year’s NBA playoffs, "nastiness” was a term used to describe the Houston Rockets’ and Denver Nuggets’ ability to go toe-to-toe with the highly favored Los Angeles Lakers. Call it what you want, but Rose, who won two NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs, said developing toughness is essential. "He’s a vet,” said Oklahoma City forward D.J. White, who made his debut late in his rookie season after jaw surgery. "He knows what it takes to win championships. You have to listen to him. He knows what he’s talking about.” The primary reason Boston manhandled the Lakers in last year’s NBA Finals was Kevin Garnett and his Celtics teammates’ edginess, a toughness that proved to be the difference in the series. A young Thunder team doesn’t need to turn into the modern-day version of the Detroit Pistons’ "Bad Boys.” But championship-caliber teams often have a little nastiness. Kevin Durant, the 2008 NBA Rookie of the Year, saw a nasty streak last season, just not often enough. "Last summer, me and Jeff (Green) were close to fightin’ because he might have pushed me too hard or I might have elbowed him,” Durant said.