There’s still a long row to hoe this NBA season, and we all knew the Oklahoma City Thunder’s initiation was going to be anything but easy.
So don’t go putting your season tickets on eBay just 11 games into an eight-month, 82-game journey that more than anything is going to require a lot of fortitude and faith.
No, not fortitude and faith from the Thunder ” although that couldn’t hurt; we’re talking about the OKC fans. Things are probably going to get tougher before they get better, so buckle up, sit tight and don’t let the boo bugs bite.
This franchise is still in a transition mode, and while we all want to see better performances and more wins, this thing is going to take some time.
Eventually, coach P.J. Carlesimo will find a way to get his young team to defend better and shoot better. There have been times early this season the Thunder has done both fairly well, but overall consistency has been lacking.
So far, the only thing first-year Oklahoma City franchise has done with any real consistency is lose. Carlesimo’s squad started the season 0-5 on the road and 1-9 overall, equaling the level of futility established by last season’s Seattle SuperSonics over their first 10 games.
A 25-point loss at Philadelphia Nov. 15 prompted a players-only meeting, in hopes of finding some for answers for their lack of energy, among other things. That deficiency has been evident in a few performances this season, including a home loss to Orlando on Nov. 12 when the Thunder looked lifeless for three out of the four quarters, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
If there is one quick way to turn off fans, it’s to go out and give the appearance you’re just going through the motions. That simply won’t fly.
The average age on this team is 24.7 years. There’s no excuse for not playing with a hunger and sense of urgency every single game.
“We got to have fun,” point guard Earl Watson told the media after Saturday’s loss. “We’ve got to play hard. We got to hold each other accountable. We got to play with energy. I feel like our energy’s not there for whatever reason, but we’ve got to find it.”
Watson, one of the few seasoned veterans on the team at 29, has tried to supply some leadership, along with Nick Collison, Joe Smith and former Oklahoma State standout Desmond Mason. But it has been a frustrating beginning for the first-year franchise and its fans.
After the losses to Orlando and Philly, some of that frustration began to bubble over.
“To me, getting down 30 points and having to fight back is just embarrassing,” said Mason, who was fourth on the team in scoring with 8.4 points a game through the weekend. “It’s embarrassing to do that at home with the type of crowd we have, and it’s definitely embarrassing to do that on the road.”
NOT ENOUGH CONCERN
While addressing the media, Collison looked around the locker room and didn’t like what he saw. Too many smiling faces. Not enough concern.
“It shouldn’t be as happy as it is right now. It doesn’t seem like we’re 1-9 right now with the way some people are acting in here,” Collison told the media. “We need to have a better sense of urgency and try to change what we’re doing. We’re doing it over and over and over again. It’s the same thing every night.”
No doubt, something has to change. And it needs to begin with Carlesimo finding a way to energize his troops.
Young stars like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the face of the franchise, but guys like Watson, Collison and Mason must provide the leadership needed to guide the Thunder through these rough waters early.
At the very least, this team needs to find a way to harness the excitement and energy coursing through the veins of the Ford Center ” thanks to 19,134 screaming fans ” and turn that into a home-court advantage.
Get some wins at home, build some confidence and go from there.
“We’re going to have to be scrappy to win games,” Westbrook said earlier this season.
Everyone understands this is a young team looking for its identity and there are going to be some big bumps along the road. But play scrappy every night and the fans will be a lot more forgiving when it comes to losses. “Jay C. Upchurch