OKC beats New York in home opener 105-84
Last night was my 10th opening game as a season ticket holder for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Having attended upwards of 450 games live and in person in the venue now known as the Chesapeake Energy Arena, I have had many pleasant experiences viewing the Thunder in this large gym on Reno Street.
The excitement last night was hard to beat as the expectations of this current version of Big Blue is as high as it has ever been here in downtown OKC. Yes, the addition of two future Hall-of-Fame stalwarts, Carmelo Anthony from New York and Paul George from Indiana, have made the Thunder, again, as one of the best teams in the world. They are worthy of a strong run for an NBA championship even if they play in the ultra-tough Western Conference.
Realistically, I understand that the Larry O’Brian Trophy goes through the Bay Area of California. Yes, the abilities of the Golden State Warriors with Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, are major, but that is of no matter. Yes, that team plays great “team” ball. This Thunder has their own triple threat in the afore mentioned greats Anthony and George, to pair with the reigning MVP of the league, Russell Westbrook. Throw in a couple of defensive stoppers in Steven Adams and Andre Roberson, OKC should hold their own with a smothering defense that is long and effective.
Just less than a year and a half ago did I have a good feeling that the Thunder would play and also take a championship from this league, only to be devastated by the departure of the great Thunder Kevin Durant in a less than gracious move to the west coast. His chicken shit move to the enemy was no less crappy in that he did not give any indication of his unhappiness with his home team in OKC, let alone an internal wish to fulfill personal goals even if he had to play a second or even third fiddle on a stacked team. His lack of personal fortitude to win a title as a leader was stunning and for me, showed the metal of a weak sportsman that is not worthy of praise. So much for that individual, My feelings of championship for OKC is back. The fact that I do not have a certainty on that possible title is what make sport so wonderful. You never know until the games are played.
There were many memorable visuals last night to file in my sports cabinet. First, Anthony and George in Thunder blue. It might have been the first time OKC played a home game in their road blue, I really can not remember truthfully. George wore leg stockings that were indicative of style one the court with Anthony in pre-game warm ups donning his iconic hoodie and then his head ban during game time.
With Nike now the official uniform fitter for the league, home teams car wear their choice of dress and this night the blue looked exquisite. With the free t-shirts the fans were provided, the most of the 18,203 made the Peak a colorful Thunder environment against the white clad New York Knicks. I have to say the new uniforms, with the tweaking by Nike, were stunning. As any OKC fan knows if they follow style of the game, the Thunder’s duds are not ranked high among league fashion critics, but for me, those blues are perfect.
The return to Enes Kanter was significant for Thunder fans. Include me in that. For two seasons and a half Kanter was big time with regard to lovability as a Thunder player. No matter where the NBA road takes this gentle giant, Enes will always be a Thunder in the heart for us. And I know he actually loves our city and the state of Oklahoma. Expect to see him here on occasion during the off seasons. With his best friend in the league being Steven Adams, you can bank on it.
As for on-the-floor action, having players of such high quality in a starting role with the ability to score and defend, OKC toyed with the Knicks until they took over the game in the last minutes of the second quarter. Better perimeter shooting was noted as Westbrook did not need to jack up contested three pointers (I think he shot just one in the game). With a stronger and deeper bench, and having Anthony or George on the court when Westbrook takes his scheduled breaks, OKC has a first class scorer on the floor for a full 48 minutes when needed. That offensive pressure a George or Anthony can put on a bench group is a major difference this year’s team has on the one in 2016-2017.
Finally, even from my seat in Loud City (I use eye glasses), I could see that this team is together in play. They show excitement on the court and compliment each other on great plays. George mentioned that he never felt as open for shots as he did last night. Anthony seemed totally at ease with the game, as Coach Billy Donavan always gives his players the green light to pull the trigger when the shot is there. That goes with a great such as the triplets or Andre Roberson, not the best shooter on the team.
There will be games when OKC doesn’t look perfect, will take losses as the season plays out. The bumps and grinds will cost players minutes measured in game minutes or lost games as of being injured. But it will be a season that consumes this writer as this Thunder team will not set foot on any floor in the league (Golden State, yes) and not have a great chance to pull out a win. That was not the way it was last year sports fans.
Feature Photo: Credit Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press