Confident Thunder Back On Track?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –It’s okay to admit it now, to say it out loud.

We were worried about the Oklahoma City Thunder a few weeks ago. The James Harden trade rocked the locker room, altered the way the defending Western Conference champions played and tinkered with championship-level chemistry at a time when the Thunder’s young core was still in the developing stages.

But they’ve emerged from that fog to resume the position most expected them to — being at the top of the conference standings along with the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.

If there is still a lingering bit of uncertainty about this team, it’s not coming from inside OKC’s locker room. In fact, veteran center Kendrick Perkins has never been more sure of his team’s ultimate fate than he is now, after they’ve run off eight wins in their past 10 games and have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in a groove.

Perkins is convinced the Thunder is ready for finish what they couldn’t against Miami last year in The Finals, telling HoopsWorld‘s Alex Kennedy:

“On a scale of one to ten, I’d say we’re about an eight,” Perkins said of this year’s Thunder. “We have a lot of new guys and a lot of young guys so we’re just trying to build our chemistry one game at a time. The thing is we lost a lot of veteran guys. We have a lot of talented guys, but they’re not as experienced. We just have to make sure we follow the process and keep getting better.”

“We’re all growing together,” Perkins added. “We have to be a better defensive team all-around. We have to do a better job of cutting down on our turnovers. We have to do a better job of executing our offense. We have to get better at the little things like talking on defense, setting good screens, cutting even when you’re not getting the ball so that someone else gets an open shot. Those are the things that don’t show up in the box scores, but those are the things that help teams win championships. Those are the things that we’re striving to get better at.”

Bluster or not, Perkins does have championship experience that cannot be ignored. His time in Boston provided him with insight into the inner workings of a Celtics championship team in 2008 that only a dozen or so active players around the league can match. So he might know a thing or two about a team’s championship mettle when he sees it.

If he says Kevin Martin is more than up to the task of replacing what Harden gave the Thunder in production and intangibles, then maybe we ought to listen.

If he believes that the Lakers, Spurs, Grizzlies and even the Los Angeles Clippers don’t pose the imminent threat to the Thunder’s dominance that we happen to think they do from our view here at the hideout, then maybe it’s worth a little more deliberation.

But we’re betting Thunder coach Scott Brooks isn’t nearly as confident in his new-look group just yet. Fourteen games are a limited sample size for making lasting prognostications about any team, even one as talented and accomplished as this Thunder crew. Their tussle with an upstart Charlotte team tonight (8 ET, League Pass) will provide another glimpse into their basketball souls.

The Thunder played with a chip on their collective shoulder last season, scratching and clawing for respectability every step of the way. There have been times this season, however, that they didn’t exhibit that same sort of edge. Part of that comes with the journey they’ve been on as a group. Part of it has to do with the fact that they’ve gone, in three short seasons, from the hunter to the hunted.

There is an attitude adjustment that comes with that change in dynamic. Perkins knows all about it, having toiled for a Celtics team that served as a league punching bag before the Big 3 showed up and guided the franchise to a championship in their first season together.

That thin line between confidence and arrogance has to be navigated carefully, especially so early in what the Thunder hope will be a long season.

20 Comments

  1. Who cares says:

    Kobe are you stupid, first of all last year in the second round, russel Westbrook was leading those 12-0 runs at the end of the game to win and then Kevin Durante was knocking down threes in mwps face, harden was just a three now and then . True that harden helped the beat the lakers a little but after the all star break, Kevin Martin will come out and fill in for harden. Now Kmart may not drive the lane like harden but he can shoot just as we. By the way ill be happy for the lakers if they win but I just want to point out your foolish post

    • cozyjosh says:

      Perk set good screens, which means good looks for Durant and Co. And trust me, it is not a given in the NBA to be able to do this apparently simple thing that is setting a good pick for a teammate.
      Perk is no stat guy (these are atrocious), but is reliable to give everything he’s got to win, and defend well on other bigs. Let see in the near future if he can still fight D12 down low (when with the C’s, he was impressive). Then he will be useful for OKC.
      Personnaly, I just hate last year when Brooks played him against the Heat, in the Finals, when it was obvious that smallball was killing them… Scotty Brooks has to make adjustments with Perk (he’s good against any contender in the West), and not blindly let him play (for what ? Trust and faith in your player, even if it means losing… it was so close ’till Game 5) when matchups are as bad as the Heat were last year.
      in the end, OKC will be ok ! But Brooks has to improve his coaching greatly for the Thunder to win it all.

  2. kobe says:

    Lakers yawn. perkins is washed up should be worried about stopping dwight and pau. and with harden gone whose been the biggest Laker killer in the playoffs its gonna be even easier for the Lakers to win the chip :)

  3. tyrone says:

    Why aren’t they playing Jeremy Lamb. Give him a chance, he could be a good player sometime in the future

  4. Yep, trust Perkins. He is obviously one of the best players in the league and probably gained the most experience out of all the Celtics who were in the Finals with him.

    /sarcasm

  5. Darrell Darrellson says:

    Coach likes Perkins and Perkins knows he is there to make sure none of the other big guys can dominate the paint. He has his uses. His intangibles are quite tangible. He knows basketball pretty well. He knows the league well and is quite experienced. I think hes a top 5 big man, almost top 3.

  6. Mykonmorales says:

    Okc will not win a ring.

  7. NightTrain says:

    The Thunder will be Fine. Perkins is great for this team because NOBODY pushes us around. He knows his role and he will keep clearing the Blocks for us. Kmart will start lighting it up, he has should flashes but after the Allstar Break it will be a much more well oiled machine and the Thunder willshow why we are still the BEST and why the west goes thru OKC…..

  8. AusieCeltic says:

    Kendrick Perkins should’ve stayed at Boston. The Celtics probably would’ve won another title with him.

  9. charles says:

    Perhaps with Kevin Martin there, it renews their hunger. Afterall, he hasn’t even been that deep in the playoffs before so he’s fighting for a personal legacy too…

  10. bOxstOppER says:

    PERKINS better go to MAIMI i’m 100% sure that your in starting line up!!!!
    WADE / CHALMERS / COLE
    ALLEN / MILLER / ALLEN
    JAMES / BATTIER / HARRIS
    BOSH / HASLEM / JONES
    PERKINS / ANTHONY / HARRELSON
    WITH OR WITHOUT PERKINS………… LET’S GO WHITE HOT MAIMI HEAT.!!!!!!!!

  11. snake206 says:

    The Thunder will be fine,L et the season play out

  12. Chris says:

    Lamb has attitude issues. He seems to have an entitlement mentality. He was fawned over in Houston, here he just another bench player. I dont think he has adjusted to that fact well. I bet we trade him unless he gets off his high horse in a hurry.

  13. Chuckles says:

    As soon as KMartin becomes more aggressive, the THUNDER will be there waiting on the Western Conference bigs and will get their past due respect.

  14. PLEASE givr time to Jeremy LAMB He has the Potential

  15. Dafuq says:

    OKC!!!
    but i hate perkins…

    • cozyjosh says:

      Perkins is a joy to hate…
      don’t mind about it !
      OKC need more discipline to win the NBA Championship. More veterans too, ’cause PJIII and Lamb are, for now, glue to the bench.
      Maynor should progress gradually, and they need him to be very good if they want to at least compete in the mighty West Conf, ACL injury is difficult to come back from… we all know that !
      Let go thunder

  16. MuzaffarOKC says:

    I agree with Sekou.Slowly and gradually,the OKC team is building up its confidence and getting Martin in the loop.Go OKC