Rewind your brain to two weeks ago. Two Weeks Ago Royce tells you in Oklahoma City’s first six games, Kevin Durant shoots under 40 percent from the field, James Harden is averaging under five points a game, the Thunder’s defense has more holes in it than the promises of a televangelist, and OKC ranks dead last in assists per game as a team.
What would you think the Thunder’s record would be? If I told you it would be 3-3, you’d probably surprised. “Surprised” might not be the right word.
“Thankful” probably works better.
And consider some the competition: Portland. Utah. Boston. Chicago. It’s not like OKC has been playing a bunch of pushovers.
Yet, there’s some light grumbling. Some low murmuring maybe. That’s what happens when a summer of hype and expectation leads into a new season: If things don’t start out amazing, it feels like everyone should be disappointed.
And things definitely have not started out amazing. Again, there are problems on the court with this Thunder team. But the season is long. We’re something like 4 percent into this trip. Too early to worry; too early to panic.
But in this short time we’ve learned three things:
“Former assistant coach Ron Adams was important. He was defensive coordinator of sorts and left in the offseason for an assistant’s seat on the Chicago Bulls’ staff. Almost immediately, his presence impacted the Thunder defensively. And almost immediately, his absence has done the same in the opposite direction. It’s not like the team has forgotten how to defend and all the principles they learned last season, but they’ve certainly looked sluggish and unfocused at times on that end.
“Offensively, the team relies a lot on Durant’s success. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because why wouldn’t you do that, but when Durant is not cooking, the team really struggles. Scott Brooks has admitted to not focusing much on the offensive end of the floor, and it’s shown at times as the Thunder bumps into each other and ends up dumping the ball to Durant with four on the shot clock for a contested heave.
“Serge Ibaka makes a big impact. Consider last week’s game against the Blazers. OKC was getting assaulted inside by LaMarcus Aldridge. Ibaka checks in, moves over to guard Aldridge and the Blazer big man scores two points the last 17 minutes. ESPN columnist J.A. Adande pegged Ibaka as his Defensive Player of the Year. That might be a little optimistic, but still, he is a huge weapon.
With this Thunder team, there’s always kind of an air of terrified excitement surrounding them. Last season still seems too good to be true, and I feel like we’re all waiting for a dose of reality. But if the first week and a half tells us anything, it’s that the Thunder can win even when they kind of stink. Which is a huge step in becoming a seriously good team.
Royce Young is the founder of the DailyThunder.com blog.