Kendrick Perkins apparently was in for quite a change of culture when he went from the Boston Celtics to Oklahoma City Thunder.
After serving as one of Boston’s primary big men during the “Big Three” era, Perkins was sent to the Thunder ahead of the 2011 trade deadline. When he got there, he joined an up-and-coming Oklahoma City team that boasted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
Perkins was part of a tight-knit group in Boston. It was the opposite with the Thunder, with the retired center explaining on JJ Redick’s “The Old Man and the Three” podcast just how dysfunctional things were.
“It was all about KD and Russ," Perkins said (1:18:05 in player above). "It was about their relationship, their continuity wasn’t there. No matter how much they tried to fake it to the public, their brotherhood, it never was a brotherhood. And that’s OK, right? You don’t have to be somebody’s brother to go out there and try to win a championship, but it helps.
"They never just got on the same page, and it was the most difficult situation I’ve ever been in. Coming in from a Celtics team that was so close, that when I got to the Oklahoma City Thunder, it was so separated. You had Eric Maynor, you had Russell Westbrook and James Harden and Daequan Cook. They had their little clique and they kicked it with each other. And then you just had KD, who was just by himself. He didn’t even hang with them.
"So I started to see it and I’m like ‘Hold on, we can’t win like this. Not where we’re trying to go.’ And I started noticing that when we went on the road, I’m thinking oh, we're going to have team dinner together, we didn’t have it. KD would go in his own direction, some of his boys would fly down along with his brother, they would do their own thing. So I was like hold on, I’ve got to come in the middle of this. It was to the point where their families weren’t speaking. And I’m like hold on, we’ve got to change this environment, and so I started forcing it. I would put those two guys, KD and Russ in a group message … and made them start interacting with each other."
Perkins said he put an end to family members traveling with the team on the road so that they could all interact with each other, imploring everyone to get dinner, play cards and watch games together.
That only went so far.
“I had to start forcing them to f--k with each other, but they never really f----d with each other. They did it just because, but it wasn’t authentic. And I think that when KD and Russ go look down the line and say you know what, we had something special, but we didn’t embrace it. That’s going to be a sad thought."
That era of Thunder basketball will go down as one of the most talented groups to never win a title together. All those star players went their separate ways, with Durant proving to be the only one of the star trio thus far to win a title in his career.
Perkins ended up staying with the Thunder until he was traded to Cleveland in 2015. At that point his best years were behind him, and he was unable to help push Oklahoma City over the hump.