For a team that’s gone 130-90 since starting out 3-29 three seasons ago, and has been at worst, the third-best team in the league this year, Oklahoma City sure does get a lot of questions about their chemistry. For all those who admire them as a model of how to build a contender, the Thunder attract naysayers because let’s face it, people aren’t used to watching a team with a 23-year-old leader, an attacking, 22-a-night scoring point guard and a lineup that centers all offensive responsibility around three players. It’s untraditional.
In the wake of the heated in-game argument against Memphis earlier this season between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, the questions hit hard again. Does KD have issues with someone taking his shots? Is Russell Westbrook nervous the team has a problem? Does he have a problem? As the point guard told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the question doesn’t even need an answer.
“It’s a joke to us, man,” Westbrook said of the persistent rumblings that he and Durant can’t co-exist in the same fivesome. “It’s definitely a joke to me. It’s a joke to our whole team, because we know how we act amongst each other.
“The more you win, you’re on TV more and you’ve got a lot of attention on you. And somebody is going to try to find something to break us apart. But I just think it’s brought us closer. We’re both just trying to win and we both know that.”
Kevin Durant went even further, calling them the league’s most boring team (the reason for so much contrived and perceived drama) and saying he wouldn’t want to play anywhere else than in OKC with his boy, Westbrook. For fans and the media, the relationship is unique. They just aren’t used to seeing two of the game’s youngest (so young) and best (so good) players become good friends.
If people expect the Thunder to be a ball-moving, free-flowing offense they need to look at that roster again. There’s no post presence whatsoever, no one off the bench who can create a shot (outside of James Harden), and the best players all do damage from the same areas on the court. They play outside-in. Lots of one-on-one play is inevitable. The offense won’t always be fluid, won’t always flow from possession to possession, the ball from player to player. They’ll be quick shots, forced plays… but in the end, they’ll be wins.
As Stein wrote, personality problems will never break up this team. Perhaps on-court problems down the road – the makeup of the team, the fit – could create a change. But for now, the Thunder are having a laugh at everyone else’s expense.
Do you think there are any problems in OKC’s locker room at all?
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