I can only imagine what it must be like for Thunder fans. You know, I relate in a certain why, I like losing teams, as a matter of fact almost all of my favorite sports teams have a history of being lovable losers, or just plain losers but still. With Oklahoma City it’s different. Why is it different? Because they had it all to win, in various occasions and they failed to live up to their own hype. Remember those beautiful days when James Harden used to come off the bench for OKC and when the lineup at some point would have Westbrook, Durant, Harden and Ibaka together at once, those were definitely the good days. Then of course, it all went downhill, but downhill in a 50-mile-deep hill, with bumps, “back stabbings” and Carmelo Anthony all in the fray. The Thunder this season have turned everything around magically and are now a team everyone in the already dreaded Western Conference should fear to play be it right now in the regular season or even worse, in the post season. Why is this though? Well let’s take a crack at it.
First of all, the life lessons learned by this team in the period of Harden and Durant leaving, Melo and PG13 showing up, Melo leaving and finding a groove between all of their almost nonexistent functionality. It’s hard not to go back again to the times of Durant, Westbrook and Harden all together. What happened there OKC? Why couldn’t you make it all work out? If’s and but’s could do the trick here but screw that, what’s done is done and now we’re living in the present. Harden leaving was a blow but Durant leaving, then absolutely nobody gave anything for the Thunder. People forgot to remember that Russell Westbrook was still there and if there’s one player in the league who can perfectly well carry a team on his shoulders to victory it’s him. He has been doing it while seeing people come and go and it’s paying off big time now. His level of maturity is showing more and more every day on the court, it’s almost a shame he is still in a way playing behind the shadow of guys like Curry, James and Durant because he is perfectly up there too. Westbrook is going all out for OKC, he always has and now there’s almost no way of stopping him.
Speaking about maturity, Paul George has grown into his roll in OKC at the right time. He is to this day the most dominant offensive player in the league, look at his stats if you don’t believe so. He has made the Thunder win 11 of their last 12 games including beating teams like Houston, Milwaukee and Portland. He’s averaging over 30 points per game and he is living for this. It has taken him almost nine seasons to come to terms with the fact that he can be that dominant player who can be the perfect leveler for any team in the league, he is the Pippen to Westbrook’s Jordan in a way. George and Westbrook are playing the best basketball of their seasons right now and there is no clear sign of them stopping any time soon, the only sign is of them getting better and better as the season progresses. Can anybody say Paul George MVP? If he continues like this then it would be a crying shame if he’s not in the running for the award.
Lastly consistency, now there’s a word that hadn’t been seen in a long time in OKC. The Thunder grew to relying way too much on Westbrook. It almost seemed like it didn’t really matter who was playing with him on the court as long as he was there. Now it’s different though, with Westbrook understanding his role as a leader but also empowering his teammates everyone is stepping up to the plate and putting in their work. The defensive work by guys like Adams, Noel and Grant is something to be noted, especially with a guy like Steven Adams. The big man could very well be considered the third leader and heart and soul of this team. He was there for the worse and is now living some of the best times and he’s still coming every day and putting in his best effort. This team has learned from its constant ups and downs and now have finally found a middle part where they can thrive. I wouldn’t want to face them in the post season, and if I were the Nuggets I would be very fearful of the Thunder sneaking up on me and taking away the number 2 spot in the Western Conference playoff race. If the playoffs started today the Thunder would have to face the Jazz, today, right now as I would do later on, my money is on this new look Oklahoma City Thunder.