Last weekend I traveled to Seattle, Washington for the Thanksgiving holidays. Like I said I would, I wore my Oklahoma City Thunder shirt into the Sea-Tac Airport. Expecting to be bombarded with jeers and taunts, I had my headphones on to possibly tune out what was going to happen when I got off the plane. Yet, when I got off the plane and entered the terminal, the craziest thing happened.
Not a damned thing.
In fact, in my four days in the Pacific Northwest I saw a few brave folks wearing Oklahoma City Thunder gear. Some snapbacks, some tees, nothing overwhelming but still I was able to spot them on occasion. Where I thought conversation would be apprehensive, I was greeted with cheerful talk about the NBA, Thunder included.
Heck, it seems everyone in Seattle wants to get the Kings anyway. Here are my Three Thunder Thoughts for Tuesday.
Dawg. In the NBA, there was a score at one time of 82-29.— Till Fu Panda (@thetillshow) November 27, 2012
At what point does thumping such a foe not become fun anymore? The Thunder amassed as high as a 54-point lead in the game and the feel-good story Bobcats were dealt the ultimate trump card. Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk gave a great breakdown of the insane positive and negative numbers that were thrown up on Monday night.
• The Thunder went on a 24-6 run to end the first quarter and lead by 16 points. Then they went on a 10-0 run early in the second quarter then a 19-2 run to close out the first half. Then they went on a 15-1 run to open the second half.
• Oklahoma had a 40-point lead at halftime - 64-24. The Thunder shot 59.5 percent in the first half.
• Charlotte shot 21.6 percent in the first half. Point guards Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions were a combined 0-9 shooting with a combined two assists at the half. The Thunder had as many points in the paint in the first half (24) as the Bobcats had points period.
• Oklahoma City led by as many as 53 and won by 45.
• The Bobcats shot 29.1 percent for the game.
• Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and all the Thunder starters played just the first five minutes of the second half.
• If you prefer your stats advanced, the Thunder had an offensive rating of 119.8 for the game, the Bobcats 76.1.
• Jeff Taylor had 10 points and he led the Bobcats and he was the only Charlotte player in double figures scoring.
• Oklahoma City had six players in double digit scoring, led by Kevin Durant's 18.
• OKC backup center Hasheem Thabeet had his first career double-double - 13 points, 11 rebounds.
Good grief. Next.
2. Could Perry Jones III Be The Next Tracy McGrady? There was a time when folks thought Perry Jones III would be a lock, let me repeat that...lock, No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. The Thunder were extremely fortunate to draft him late in the first round, and now the 6'11" forward has a chance to shadow the league's best scoring threat in Durant. Danny Chau of The Classical gave this interesting perspective comparing PJ3 to...T-Mac? Yes, yes he did. (OMG CAN YOU IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES IF THIS HAPPENS??? WE'D....NEVER MAKE IT OUT THE FIRST ROUND OF THE PLAYOFFS OMG OMG OMG)
Being compared to T-Mac is the most generous backhanded compliment a basketball player can receive. The comparison acknowledges that its recipient has the completely unfair competitive edge of good genes. It acknowledges the systems in play that transmit the perception of effortlessness and natural ability to the player; namely, the ability to jump higher, accelerate faster, and process the floor quicker than any of his peers. But the comparison also suggests that at any moment, the player's talent and promise can soften or implode; that there is something loose or missing in this particular machine that will inevitably leave the ideal incomplete and the actual in shambles.
Tracy McGrady's vice was a notoriously poor work ethic. It was brought to public consciousness as early as his rookie season in 1998 when Darrell Walker, McGrady's first NBA coach, issued disparaging comments about his 18-year-old star to the Toronto press, and as recently as 2011 when his former coach Jeff Van Gundy made a joke about how much practice he had at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Though, to T-Mac's credit, he probably skipped out on most of Van Gundy's practices because of the multiple career-threatening injuries he sustained as a Houston Rocket.
Jones' problem was similarly clear, if no less infuriating: he would intersperse flashes of unfathomable potential with a prolonged stretch of invisibility. His high school YouTube mixtapes had tantalizing footage of a 6'11" player running his own fast break, crossing up vulnerable guards and gliding his way to an easy dunk. He had perfect technique on his turnaround fadeaways and was a team player capable of making a drive and dish look like a gift from God. But he was not always that, or was not that quite often enough. He was clearly limiting himself on the court despite the entire universe demanding that he play up to the idealized version of Perry Jones III we had constructed. He was holding back. The question was why.
As it turns out, he might've done it to save his future in the NBA.
Everyone cross their fingers and pray that this happens and doesn't happen to Perry Jones III simultaneously.
3. The Bearded One Prepares His Return To Oklahoma City: On Thursday, November 29th, the Houston Rockets will bring their talents to Chesapeake Energy Arena in a divisional matchup with the Thunder. Of course, no one cares about any of that, the people care because James Edward Harden, Jr. will return to his previous home.
I'll save for the analysis and just ask some rhetorical questions.
Will they boo?
WIll they give a standing ovation?
What will the dap sessions look like between Harden and Durant?
Harden and Westbrook?
Are we ready to see Thabo Sefolosha guard Harden?
Are we ready for Kendrick Perkins to give an egregiously hard foul and scowl on Harden?
Will Harden try and score 40 points on Kevin Martin?
I have so many questions, and the only answers will come on Thursday night. It might be the most depressing and exciting game for me personally all year. I can't wait, and yet I never wanted this day to come.