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Should the Russell Westbrook-Kendrick Perkins relationship concern the Thunder?

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: October 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm •  Published: October 2, 2011

Did something happen between Kendrick Perkins and Russell Westbrook?

We don't know.

But if there is some sort of rift between the Thunder's starting point guard and center, as one report recently suggested, the two must be awfully good actors.

From the time Perkins joined the Thunder in late February, he and Westbrook took turns sticking up for the other. By the end of the season, it had become clear that the team's two biggest targets for criticism had developed, if nothing else, a mutual respect.

When Westbrook's shot selection and decision making came under fire throughout the playoffs, it was Perkins who spoke loudest as Westbrook's biggest defender. Moments after the Thunder's season-ending Game 5 loss to Dallas in the Western Conference Finals, it was Perkins who faced reporters and praised Westbrook for how poised he had remained in the face of national scrutiny.

Yet a report in the New York Daily News claimed that there is tension between Perkins and Westbrook, as well as coach Scott Brooks and general manager Sam Presti.

“As much as coach Scott Brooks chafes at GM Sam Presti's meddling, his presence in the locker room, and his demands that the Thunder continue to improve from within, the organization is a lot more concerned with how Kendrick Perkins treats Russell Westbrook,” the report started.

“After arriving from the Celtics last season and being looked at as the veteran leader Oklahoma City needed to take the next step to compete for a title, Perkins went hard at Westbrook with his verbal criticisms, often saying that the Thunder's playmaker couldn't match Rajon Rondo as a playmaker. Those words didn't sit well with Westbrook, who already had been criticized for shooting too much and was the subject of a benching heard-round-the-NBA when the Thunder played the Mavs in June.”

Surely at some point, all four men will be asked about the report. Each is likely to shoot it down. And when they do, each will have a credible counter. Because not once last season did Westbrook and Perkins, or Brooks and Presti, show any resentment toward each other in public.

Presti has a reputation for being hands-on. But he also prides himself on putting the right people in the right places and allowing them to do their job. Presti's insistence on butting out is seen most in his relationship with his coach. Whenever Presti was asked about an on-court matter last season, his response was always the same: basketball decisions are left up to Brooks.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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