EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- When the Oklahoma City Thunder acquired Kendrick Perkins before the trade deadline, the feeling around the league was it was a move made with the Los Angeles Lakers in mind. (The Lakers eliminated the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs last season.)
Not only did Perkins bring veteran leadership and championship experience from his eight seasons with the Boston Celtics, he also brought a distinct disdain for the Lakers.
In an interview with ESPN The Magazine after the trade, Perkins said the Lakers were "yesterday's news" and added, "I don't like Pau Gasol or Phil Jackson. Phil is arrogant. Pau is soft. Kobe [Bryant] tries to bring out his toughness, but he's still soft."
After an extended practice Saturday, Gasol smiled and shook his head when he was relayed Perkins' remarks.
"Certain players talk too much from my perspective," he said. "They should worry about their own stuff."
Gasol said the Lakers, currently mired in a four-game losing streak, didn't need any extra incentive to win Sunday against the Thunder but Perkins' comments certainly didn't hurt.
"You can't control what other players do," Gasol said. "It's a tough opponent; we know that, they've gotten better. We want to beat them and if we can beat them up, even better. You got to have patience in life and the time will come to prove yourself and show what you got and what they got."
"I'm way past my own things or remarks from people," Gasol said. "You can't control that. Certain guys have the right to speak and you can't stop them from doing that. [Sunday's] a game that we want to win aside from individuals and this guy that doesn't matter."
Winning, however, has been easier said than done for the Lakers recently. After winning 17 of 18 games after the All-Star break, the Lakers have lost four straight games for the second time this season. They are in jeopardy of losing the No. 2 seeding in the Western Conference to the Dallas Mavericks, who are only one game behind them, and of losing potential home-court advantage in the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics, who have the same record as the Lakers.
"Oh yeah, we're very concerned. We really are," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I'm concerned very much so. You can't turn the switch on and off like that in basketball without having to pay some kind of price. Your game just doesn't come back all of the sudden. If we had injuries and people out and there was some sustaining facts behind it, that would be one thing, but there really isn't."
Jackson says he believes the Lakers took their feet off the gas after they lost to the Denver Nuggets last Sunday. Going into that game the feeling was the Lakers were positioning themselves to overtake the San Antonio Spurs for the top seeding in the West and possibly the league, and when that was seemingly out of reach following the loss so was their interest in the rest of the regular season.
"We lost to Denver and the guys must have thought it, but I didn't, that San Antonio is out of reach and they stopped playing hard," Jackson said. "It's just a mental thing. It just takes a very small amount like that to change the outcomes of games."
Jackson didn't share any thoughts on Perkins' comments but hoped it would light a fire under the Lakers to play hard Sunday.
"If they don't, they're going to get pounded," he said. "Oklahoma City comes and plays hard."
Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.