Kendrick Perkins is in a unique predicament tonight.
He's one of the most competitive dudes ever to don an NBA uniform -- always has been. His fiery spirit manifests itself every game, whether it's with a hard moving screen, a nasty scowl, or even a heated confrontation with an opposing player or a referee.
"He doesn't like his opponent," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of his starting center. "And I love guys that are like that. You should not like your opponent. You should want to win. You should respect them, but you should want to beat them every single night."
Sure, yeah. That's all well and good. But it's a little different for the Oklahoma City big man when he's back in Boston, on the familiar TD Garden floor, facing a Celtics team that guided him from NBA infancy and turned him into the $8 million man he is today.
"I'm just trying to make it a regular game," Perkins said. "Just trying to go out there and get a win. I've just got to make sure I stay focused on what we need to do tonight."
Easier said than done. It's been a year and a half now since Perkins left Boston, traded at the deadline in 2011 to the Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. But after eight years with the C's, Perkins admits that he still makes a habit of following his old team.
"I still watch them every night," he said. "Even nights that we're playing at the same time, I still go back and watch their games, see how they're doing. It's vice-versa, too. They do the same on my end. We give each other constructive criticism at times."
There's a lot more to criticize about the Celtics, who have endured a rocky start this season at 6-6. But Perkins, who went through a lot of so-so stretches with the C's during his time here, is able to keep things in perspective with his old ballclub.
"I wouldn't worry about them now," Perkins said. "They'll have a streak in January where they win 10 or 11 in a row."