In the early 2010s, the Oklahoma City Thunder were one of the most dominant teams in the NBA. Led by young stars in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, it seemed like the Thunder had all the pieces in place for a dynasty. Unfortunately, it never played out that way. The Thunder only made it to the Finals once, where they lost in five games to the Miami Heat.
You know how the story goes after that. Harden was traded the following offseason, and while Westbrook and Durant played together for the next four seasons, they never could put all the pieces together and get back to the Finals. Durant eventually left for the Golden State Warriors in free agency, and despite Westbrook’s best efforts, OKC fell apart.
Perkins discusses why OKC failed to win early in the 2010s
The rise and fall of the Thunder has been a case study for NBA fans across the world simply because they had a ton of talent but always found new ways to lose. One guy who had a front-row seat to the Thunder’s struggles was Kendrick Perkins, and he recently discussed why the Thunder couldn’t win a title during his time with them on the Old Man and the Three podcast.
Perkins was traded to the Thunder midway through the 2010-11 season from the Boston Celtics. Perkins had become accustomed to a brotherhood of sorts during his time with the Celtics, as guys like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett created that culture or dynamic on that team. Perkins said he quickly realized the same culture did not exist in Oklahoma.
In Perkins’ opinion, the primary culprits for that divide were Durant and Westbrook. Despite the media’s perception of them being close friends, they weren’t behind closed doors, and their inability to get on the same page killed the Thunder. Perkins even went on to say it was the most difficult situation he had been in throughout his career.
“It was all about KD and Russ. It was about their relationship. That continuity wasn’t there. No matter how they tried to fake it to the public, their brotherhood, it never was a brotherhood. And that’s OK because you don’t have to be somebody’s brother to go out there and try to win a championship, but it helps. But they never got on the same page, and it was the most difficult situation I have ever been in.” - Kendrick Perkins, The Old Man and the Three.
Perkins’ insight on Durant and Westbrook’s relationship is eye-opening
There’s no denying that Durant and Westbrook are both extremely talented players, but egos often collide in the NBA when you have multiple star players in the same locker room. We have seen the rise and downfall of many superteams in the past few seasons, but the Thunder may have been the first modern-day example of how those supposed dynasties can crumble in the blink of an eye.
The relationship between the players on a team is an underrated aspect of the game of basketball. You need all five guys to be connected at all times on the court in order to win. Part of the reason the Golden State Warriors have been so good for so long now is that everybody on the team knows and, more importantly, accepts their roles on a nightly basis.
That’s a challenging feat to accomplish, and the Thunder clearly couldn’t back when it was the Durant and Westbrook show. Despite what Westbrook and his assist numbers say, both are ball-dominant players. They are going to get their shots up one way or another, and while it may work in the regular season, playoff basketball is an entirely different game.
Perkins’ revelation here isn’t necessarily out of left field, but seeing him label it one of the most difficult situations he’s ever experienced is interesting. If things were that bad, it’s no surprise the Thunder couldn’t win despite the amount of talent they had on their roster. Perkins may be a bit exaggerative here, but he has helped provide some context for the struggles of the early 2010s Oklahoma City Thunder.