What in the world could bring Kendrick Perkins and Zach Randolph together? Not only are they two of the most physical players in the league, but the Western Conference rivals have a history (and not the good kind), leading them to have to be separated on more than one occasion.
But the two adversaries came together before Game 3 of the Thunder-Grizzlies series to ask referee Monty McCutchen a mutual question: Will you let us play physical?
The surreal scene played out on TNT's pregame broadcast Thursday. McCutchen brought Perkins and Randolph together at midcourt and said, "Kendrick has a question, and he wants fairness, and he wants you to be here." That led Perkins to explain, on Randolph's behalf, that the two would prefer to play physical in the post and bang bodies without hearing whistles. McCutchen mostly agreed with the request, but stopped short of completely signing off: "I can live with (you guys being) men. But we got to fit the guidelines, because that's when I'm gone."
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The 6-foot-10, 270-pound Perkins and the 6-9, 260-pound Randolph have never been ones to shy away from contact, but to outright ask for position to play physical is on an entirely different level.
The biggest past incident between Randolph and Perkins came in 2012, when Randolph was fined $25,000 for a confrontation with Perkins in the tunnel following a regular-season game:
The on-court exchange began following a Russell Westbrook free throw with 2:05 remaining and the Grizzlies winning 101-90. As Thunder players high-fived each other, Randolph warned Perkins that he would “beat your [expletive],” and Perkins responded with words of his own. The baseline referee, standing just a few feet away from both players, immediately ejected them.
Following the game, the Oklahoman reported that an “altercation” between Perkins and Randolph took place “near the locker rooms.” The paper reported reported that “yelling and walls and doors being hit” could be heard. Perkins reportedly declined an interview request. DailyThunder.com reported that both police at the arena and Thunder officials denied that a physical confrontation took place and reported that the exchange was merely verbal in nature.
The Grizzlies power forward was also fined another $25K earlier this season for calling officials "horrible" after a loss to the Rockets.
That's in part what made Thursday's pregame request so compelling. Two of the NBA's toughest guys, Perkins and Randolph, putting their past and postseason pressure aside to team together and defeat the most evil opponent of all: the referees. Both Randolph and Perkins have struggled at times with foul trouble during their first-round series, leading the bruisers to ask for more lenient guidelines. But the plea, as civil as it might have been, didn't exactly work -- at least for one party.
Perkins ended Game 3 with five fouls. Randolph was whistled for 0. And the Grizzlies won 98-85 in overtime to seize a 2-1 lead on the Thunder.