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OKC Thunder: Team's reputation gets tougher with Kendrick Perkins' arrival, players' maturity

Before Kendrick Perkins arrived in Oklahoma City, the young team was viewed as soft. That perception has certainly changed.
BY JOHN ROHDE Published: May 2, 2012

Veteran point guard Derek Fisher was with the Los Angeles Lakers two seasons ago when they eliminated the Thunder 4-2 in the opening round of the playoffs.

When told the Thunder's previous reputation, Fisher seemed surprised.

"I guess I wasn't aware of that particular moniker for the team," said Fisher, who signed with the Thunder as a free agent on March 21. "I know 'youth' was more of the term that was thrown around a lot (with the Thunder), but there's no question that any team that Perk is on is going to be a team that is more competitive, more passionate, more about the team and less about himself. That's just what type of guy Perk is.

"That's why he makes every team he's been on better, not because of anything that is about bringing focus to himself. He does all the little things that help everybody else be successful. That's what winning is about, making sacrifices and that's what Perk brings for us."

Whether or not the Thunder was correctly viewed as soft has become irrelevant, because the team certainly has not been viewed that way since the Perkins trade.

This season's playoff series between the Thunder and defending world champion Dallas Mavericks became a war of words between coaches after Game 1 and moved onto the court in the first quarter of Game 2 with a shoving match between Perkins and Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki, who were each assessed a technical foul.

Game 3 is 8:30 p.m. Thursday at American Airlines Center in Dallas, and although both sides said they do not envision an escalation in physicality, don't look for OKC to back down anytime soon.

"I think we play better when we play physical, especially in the playoffs because the games get more physical," Collison said. "Games slow down — screening, getting over screens, all those small little battles within a possession. We've just gotten better at fighting through that stuff."