THE THUNDER’S CRACKS AND BOOMS
The Oklahoma City Thunder have placed themselves in a root for or cast aside situation with fans across the nation, as all season, the team has played both like an NBA champion and as an obtainer of a lottery selection.
Behind gritty performances from Russell Westbrook, such as a 51-point scoring output in the second game of the year, which ended in overtime with an at-the-rim block by Andre Roberson and two sunken free throws by Westbrook, the Thunder got off to a great start, winning their first four games. The regular season is much longer than that though. Something bumped the Thunder off course for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) seemingly takes a uniform approach to running their billion-dollar business. Everything involved includes regulations: the goal is always set on 10 feet, coaches are awarded the allotted time to talk to their players during media and in-game timeouts, and, even with special nights such as Latin Appreciation or Christmas Day, the jerseys never get too outlandish. Thus, it is common for things to stay similar throughout the course of the 82-game season. Some of the players in the NBA have come forward stating the season is too long.
Dirk Nowitzki, longtime Dallas Mavericks’ big man, presented an opinion to its agreement. “I don’t think you need 82 games to determine the best eight in each conference. That could be done a lot quicker,” Nowitzki stated.
The longevity of player’s careers hinders on the longevity of the season. It’s easy to say that there are many prospects ready to be replacement in the eNtertainmentBA, yet having a player go for 20 seasons (most recently Kobe Bryant) is a fan magnet. Sure, one could argue that the impressiveness is from within the possibility of injury throughout that long of a career, yet what if not for the playoff 7 games series. A shorter season means more intense games, because the players play harder.
Not considering Russell Westbrook’s MVP-like efforts, the Oklahoma City Thunder have played mediocre to this point. That isn’t to say they have not shown up and hustled with their esteemed teammate, yet is to state the relevance of their chemistry and stability. As the NBA regular season is merely a tryout for tenacity and perseverance, the Thunder have themselves in the most purgatorial of places, sitting at the bottom of the playoff-eligible teams.
Fox Sports reported on a game between the Thunder and the Magic earlier in the season, in December. They caught up with Steven Adams, Thunder big man. He unknowingly predicted the way the Thunder’s season would go, while simply commenting on the comeback efforts in the loss to the Magic.
“Definitely have to stay patient. We can’t come out and start like that. That’s real hard to put yourself in a dog box, then to have to work your way out of that. You’re asking for an uphill battle, which is not good, but it was good for us to come together and fight back,” Adams said.
In a season filled with losing streaks, the Thunder have won more games than they have lost. A statistic which coincides with the 7 seed in the West. A season which started post-Durant and will end with an even newer roster. The recent trade to acquire Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson and to depart with Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow, and Joffrey Lauvergne has brought about less than expectations. The recent three game skid has shown a lack of experience of players on the court with each other. This trade was meant to look eager-to-win-now but has shown to be a two-names-drawn-out-of-a-hat situation of placing into familiar positions off the bench.
Nick Gallo, reporter for Fox Sports, reported on the first Thunder win after the Trade Deadline and was able to talk briefly with newcomers Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott.
“They welcomed us in the locker room. It just made it that much easier for us to come out and be ourselves and play our game,” McDermott said, while giving nod to the unselfishness of the team.
Gallo asked the former Boozer-protégée Taj Gibson how he saw about the grit and hustle at the defensive end.
“The bigs were talking. And when a team talks and helps each other out, it goes along way, and we did that in the second half,” Gibson answered, wearing a ‘Black History Month’ shirt alongside McDermott.
Taj Gibson also had the play of the century that will go unnoticed because it happened in the wasted length of the regular season. A near-full-court heave with one arm as the buzzer sounds after a length of the court pass from the opposing player and with a hand in his face as well.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, youthful and spry, are carrying a passionate roar that can either be supported or opposed. They have set themselves up in a situation of underdog wins or booed for wasting everybody’s time. There’s a feeling in the air that this team is about to win some hearts over or break them.