The Thunder brass wants us to believe they've got a team of Eagle Scouts.
Stephen Jackson has told us otherwise.
The San Antonio Spurs forward threatened Serge Ibaka the other day via Twitter. The Thunder big man hadn't tweeted anything at him or done something to him. Still, Jackson popped off.
Ibaka has gotten under his skin.
That's no small thing. Jackson is a guy who prides himself on getting under other guys' skin. He hounds. He pesters. He harasses. He's not the nicest guy in the NBA.
But Ibaka has him riled.
Kendrick Perkins just might have a sidekick of mean. Ibaka doesn't have a scowl like Perk, but he seems to be antagonizing opponents all the same.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
The Thunder front office has worked hard to bring character guys to town. Sam Presti and Co. gravitate toward players who work hard, keep their noses clean and make Oklahoma City proud.
It's been a highly successful formula.
No city loves its team more than Oklahoma City loves the Thunder. And for the Thunder to have built that bond in less than five years, it's downright amazing.
But on the court, you need some nasty.
That goes beyond toughness or grittiness or competitiveness. The Thunder gets that from Nick Collison and Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant and so many others.
Nasty is something the Thunder didn't have until Perk showed up. He was the first guy to really have a mean streak in him, and it completely changed the way the Thunder played on the defensive end of the court.
Now, we're seeing signs of nasty in Ibaka.
It is just another piece of his evolving game. Over the past few years, he has become one of the game's best shot blockers. Then, he added that 18-foot jumper. Now, he's improved his hands and his ability to catch and finish around the basket.
As he's become a more complete player, he's become a more confident player.
And with that has come orneriness.
Last Friday night, when the Lakers were in town, Ibaka got his right arm tangled with Ron Artest's left arm during a free-throw attempt. As Ibaka turned to head up court, he popped Artest in the chest with his left arm.
It happened so quickly that you almost miss it, even on slow-motion replay.
Artest responded by wrapping his arm around Ibaka, who then wrapped his arm around Artest. Artest then put his forearms into Ibaka's chest. Ibaka then grabbed the back of Artest's jersey.
The two of them danced like that for a few seconds before being separated without incident.
Still, it was interesting that in a kerfuffle involving Artest, it was actually Serge who struck the first blow and started the whole thing.
That exchange between Ibaka and Artest prompted Jackson's threatening tweet. Jackson, you see, is Artest's former teammate, and apparently, he felt the need to stick up for him.
Here's what Jackson said verbatim.
Somebody tel serg Abaka. He aint bout dis life. Next time he run up on me im goin in his mouth. That's a promise. He doin 2 much.
I've got to be honest, I'm not exactly sure what Jackson threatened to do. Does he mean Ibaka shouldn't be in this world anymore? Does Jackson, whose Spurs come to town next Monday, mean he's going to pop Ibaka in the mouth?
I don't know.
The NBA knew enough to drop a $25,000 fine on Jackson.
But here's the thing — Ibaka has obviously agitated Jackson, and it goes beyond the shots he blocks, the rebounds he grabs and the points he scores.
Not that that's a bad thing.
Look at teams that have won NBA titles, and you're likely to find an agitator or two. Udonis Haslem with the Heat. Jason Terry with the Mavs. Artest with the Lakers. The list goes on and on.
Fans of those teams love those guys while everyone else around the league thinks they're punks.
The Thunder image makers want you to believe this team is punk-free, but the truth is, they are like every other contender. They need nasty on the court. They need some bad boys.
Looks like one might be developing right under their noses.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.