I am always excited when the NBA season comes in October and the fresh outlook for the upcoming games give hopefulness of a winning season here in Oklahoma City. A season ticket holder for the Thunder since season one, game one in 2008, I totally get off on the day my “hard” tickets are delivered in the mail, as they were for this new season a day or so ago. I have every ticket that the franchise has printed since that first season and have them safely tucked away in my home office. As I do not tear the tickets apart and use another way of entering the Chesapeake Energy Arena, they stay as fresh as the day they came to daddy by the mailman. The 2019 season started for me on their arrival and the ducats will take their place with the others that will age well with my other memorabilia.
Unlike some of my fellow Thunder fans, the fact that this 2019 team does not have the highest expectations as of previous editions, does not bother me one bit. This new Thunder team allows me to enjoy the game without the added negative feelings of every game as being the most important game of the season and a “must” win for the team. And I will not feel so disappointed in May or June when we do not win the NBA championship. I have a mental issue with losses, and for an NBA fan, that is not good. Too many games to actually worry about. The pressure of the season, wins and losses, will noit be upsetting my psyche in 2019. I am good with the Thunder, the way the team is being re-set for future runs at the NBA championships, and the leadership of Sam Presti as the general manager of the franchise. I am in a good place I am totally excited for the year, win or lose. As of my opinion, OKC Thunder is also in a good place with regard to the NBA.
Sam Presti’s press conference yesterday was enlightening as usual. The GM spoke of many things, and as usual, in a way that was typical for his style, delivery, and message (what he wants you to know, or not, about the team.) And yes, his new look, with beard, looks good.
Since the last game of the 2018-2019 season, the team has changed significantly, good or bad. As a team, bad, but for the future, good and a bright outlook. OKC is not a challenger for NBA title as of the departure of many of the stars of the previous season.
As for the departure of the others, it is tough to swallow, yet one must let it go when you rebuild as a team. OKC has a very good coach in Billy Donovan and his leadership with newer player without much experience should be very positive. With the veterans on the team, again, positive.
Russell Westbrook is gone. He has set his future in the Houston area with the Rockets with his former teammate and friend James Harden. That was his choice and as of Sam Presti, good for the Thunder too. The eleven years he toiled with OKC were great ones for him and for the Thunder. To move on is not a bad thing, and as we know, Westbrook has always been a loyal player for OKC. I will always have positive feelings for him and his years here on Reno Street. Having criticized him as much as I have praised him in this blog, his special works and his appreciation for this town and state must never be forgotten. As he has said, Russell grew into a man in Oklahoma, and it will always be more than just a stop over in his career as a ball player. As of his returns this summer for various reasons, some business, others charity, Westbrook is still entrenched in OKC and Oklahoma. Sure, we will not want him to destroy the Thunder (on the court) in the many meetings he will have against us in the coming years. But I can tell you that when he steps on the court in the Peak he will be greeted as the returning warrior “coming home” and not as the “snake-in-the-grass” cupcake of you know who. Westbrook might be a Rocket for the near future, but he will always be a Thunder for me.
Paul George gave us two nice years, and OKC recognizes his significance of his play. He also, like Westbrook, leaves for good reasons, and does so in good terms with the Thunder and also with me. I hope only for the best for this great player and that he and his new teammates in Los Angeles carry the West Coast over the Lakers and the Warriors. And maybe in time those draft choices will turn out to deliver us another great player for OKC in the coming years.
Jerami Grant is gone to Denver and that hurts. But again, this guy has given his all for OKC since he was traded to us from the Sixers, and great success for him in the Mile High City. Grant will also be remembered in a very good way here in OKC.
With the reset for OKC, the fans here in OKC have to understand that there will be nights when we leave the Peak and the team will have been beaten by a bunch. Yet, with a team that still does have some of the better players in the league on the roster (and who knows for how long), this Thunder team will have enough firepower to beat any team in the league on any given night. And look for a team that will have the incentive to prove itself every night, as every time the team sets foot on the court, they will want to prove the soothsayers wrong (that this team is better than a lower ranking on the ladder).
As Presti has alluded the fact that we as fans in OKC will get to watch Chris Paul follow Russell Westbrook as the most significant player on the team in 2019, there contrast in style of play will be fun to watch. Paul, the former rookie of the year when he was with the OKC Hornets, returns and he is still one of the best point guards in the world. The way he will run this team will differ from that of Westbrook, but in fact, a drop-off in productivity will not be an issue. The way he will mesh with center Steven Adams, his floor play, and his leadership on and off the court will make OKC a better unit and a consistent issue that other teams will have to deal with. Paul is not chicken salad and if traded later in the season, OKC fans will still get to view this future-hall-of-famer play for a couple of months with the team. The great thing about Paul is that his intensity never wavers on the court, both on offense and defense. And when on the court, OKC will have that supreme veteran leadership that all teams in the league must have. OKC will not be bullied around and that is a big deal. This team will have “attitude” and that is a fucking fact for sure, with Paul as the lead enforcer of the Thunder.
In speaking of Steven Adams, Presti (as of his presser yesterday) remarked (as of the Daily Oklahoman):
“I’m really excited for him….I am really obviously a huge fan of his. I think that he still has growth left in his game. I think he has an opportunity to expand himself a little bit. He’s the ultimate blocking, tackling player, but I also think that he’s a talented player, and so he’ll have an opportunity to do a little bit more.”
Other remarks by Presti include:
“We’re still a hundred percent focused on building the most sustainable path for an elite team in Oklahoma City, realizing that’s something that eventually we’re going to embark on… but we’re not at that point yet, and we think that this season is one that we should really dive into and experience. I think it will be great for our fans, as well, to have some of the guys and get to know some of the new players….But we’re not going to do anything that will sacrifice the long-term plan that this organization needs to take to build that type of sustainability.”
In short, I am looking forward to going to the Peak for every game this year, against any foe. And as for wins and losses, let the season play out. As you know of my feelings on the NBA, after the game is over, and is part of the history of the Association, the players get paid, the employees get paid, the fans get two and one half hours of the greatest basketball in the world, live and in person, and win or lose, we get to do it all over again in a few days in OKC. How wonderful is that sports fans?