The fourth annual Thunder media day was Tuesday afternoon and while there was the large amount of boring quotes and questions about being excited and looking forward to challenges, there was also a decent amount of interesting things to take note of.
One of those being Kendrick Perkins. Everyone should know by now that he’s slimmed down losing some 30 pounds during the offseason, but basically every player raved about Perk and his re-discovered agility and athleticism. And nobody ever hinted that he lost any of that brute strength or nastiness that makes him so good in the first place.
I was sitting about two feet from Perk when he talked to the media. And let me tell you, he looks awesome. You can just tell that he’s more fit and ready and not just that, you can tell that he’s in a much better mood because of it. Not in a “He’s not going to headbutt Nene anymore” kind of good mood, but just that he’s much more enthusiastic. His arms are huge, he’s still got that barrel chest but he’s just much… well, thinner. He said this is this first time since 2009 he hasn’t had to have any knee braces or wraps and even said when he was packing last week to come to OKC, he looked at his three braces and said, “I’m gonna leave those right there.” So he didn’t even bring them with him.
Some other notes and observations from media day:
- Russell Westbrook on his pending extension: “I’m not even worried about it.” He was pretty adamant about it not being a distraction of any kind and said he’s just leaving that up to his agent and Sam Presti.
- Perk raved about Kevin Durant for a good portion of his time. “I never tell KD this, but I think he kind of set the bar high for me personally. If practice starts at 10, he’s there at 7:45 every morning. I’m sitting there looking at him like, ‘Dude, what are you doing?’ I’m used to getting my shots up after practice, he’s there before and after practice. I’m like, ‘Man you setting the bar pretty high for a guy that’s got kids.’ … When I first got here, I’d never seen a superstar work as hard as him and that’s the honest truth.”
- Perk talked about finally joining Twitter. “Thanks to my teammates I just got on the Twitter. I don’t know if Sam Presti has really digested that yet.” Perk said he was watching a college game last night and it made him start thinking about basketball and he wanted to tweet about how this team has given him a really positive vibe about the focus and how everyone is ready to go, saying it reminds him of the 2008-09 Celtics.
- Perk was asked about his reported rift between him and Russell Westbrook. “I can’t ever recall me and Russell arguing about anything, to be honest,” he said. “We know how we feel about each other. Russ and I under the same agency so we talked a lot over the summer. We’re real good friends and there’s no beef there whatsoever.”
- Just to give you a taste of how the Thunder are crazy focused, Nazr Mohammed talked about how some of the players might need to tone down some of their activities. “We are going to have to talk to certain guys about [toning down how hard they practice]. But that’s a good quality to have. Other teams are going to have to guys about not going out, not partying too hard or not doing this or that. We’re going to have to talk to guys about not working out too much.”
- KD was asked about an perceived issue between him and Westbrook. “People got to understand that guys are not going to agree on every single thing that goes on in a long season. Guys are going to have heated arguments. But at the same time we understand each other and that we just want the best for each other. I got his back 100 percent and he got my back 100 percent on that floor. People have dubbed us the best two players on the team so of course you’re going to see some tension there … We support each other and I’m excited he’s on our team because he’s a freak of nature.”
- I asked KD about how Dwight Howard has said he wants to be more involved in roster and personnel decisions. “I let those guys do their job and they let me do my job. They don’t come in every day and tell me how to shoot a jumpshot or how to go to the basket or how to shoot my free throws. They give me space to do my job so I’ll let them do theirs. If they ask me, I’ll give them my input. But I don’t really go into their office and say, ‘Hey, you need to go get this guy.’ I just go out there and play and trust those guys to go make moves that are best for the team.”
- Westbrook on the supposed tension with KD: “I just know that me and Kevin are very close. We talk every day and communicate on what we need to do,” he said. “I don’t know what happened last year or what led everyone to saying that but it’s a new year.” Westbrook said he didn’t have a reaction to the noise because he didn’t pay any attention to it.
- Scott Brooks on it: “There are no issues. They are great teammates.”
- Eric Maynor on the criticism of Westbrook: “I thought it was wrong on some people’s part. We tried to stay with Russ the whole time … Russ had a great year last year. He was an All-Star. Nobody had no complaints about how he played during the regular and then we got to the playoffs and everyone made a big deal because he took more shots than somebody else. But we always say we’re going to stay with each. Him and Kevin have no problem with each other. Kevin’s going to be with him, I’m going to be with him, the coaching staff are going to be with him.”
- Harden was asked about his role and if he’d prefer to start. “Whatever is best for this team, whatever makes us win,” he said. “I think everybody’s in a comfortable role especially with Thabo starting and me coming off the bench, I think that’s best for our team right now.” He said that in a “I don’t care about this” way, which is the right attitude.
- Harden said he hasn’t practiced yet because of a groin thing. But he should be back on the court very soon.
- Harden also said he isn’t going to shave or even trim his beard for a while.
- Nick Collison: “I’d like our entire team to be more vocal. In terms of communication. Not in terms of like motivating or getting on each other. I don’t mean that. I just mean in terms of communicating on the floor.”
- The three D-League guys all showed up wearing KD IV’s. Anthony Goods said, “Man, he’s handing those things out like water.”
- Westbrook was asked what his personal goals are. “Make my team win,” he said. Simple, and sweet.
- I can’t even tell you how far KD has come with talking to the media. He’s super relaxed, funny and confident now. He’s no longer quiet and visibly uncomfortable. It’s like he understands he’s got a larger than life game and now he’s developing that larger than life personality. I think we’re finally getting a taste of what KD’s like off the court, instead of just getting stock answers. Probably KD’s biggest offseason improvement.
- A few players mentioned that Scott Brooks has only mentioned once anything about winning a championship. It was right when they opened camp and he said something about what it takes to be a champion.
- Byron Mullens really seemed to have a change in attitude coming in, saying that he’s matured a lot and really is working hard to find a place on this team. He said he wants to have more of a low post presence than perimeter one. He was asked about how last season he actually requested to go down to the 66ers because he wanted minutes and if he’d do that again. He said no, and added, “If I’m not on the court, then that’s my fault.”
- Serge Ibaka said he’s worked a lot on developing a back-to-the-basket game, but said defense comes first for him. He was also asked about how his communication skills have improved on the court, but he didn’t understand the question.
- Reggie Jackson has a borderline cocky air to him. He’s an extremely confident, implying that he talks to his older teammates about what he’s seeing and thinking. It’s hard to tell if it’s arrogance or if he’s just really sure of himself. He said it wasn’t just his dream to get to the NBA but to “be one of the greatest point guards that ever played.”
- Cole Aldrich showed up with a serious shiner under his right eye. When he was asked how he got it he said, “Ask Kevin about that.”
- Nick Collison was asked about the craziness of free agency and how the Thunder aren’t having to deal with any of that. “We’re in a really good situation. “We’re all here, we’re all in shape.”
- Jackson said he hasn’t been hazed or anything so far very bad. The only thing was he had to go fill up KD’s car. “Luckily it wasn’t the van,” he said.