Face it, Everyone and their mother is excited for Kevin Durant and 11 other guys not named K.D. to kick off the 2010-11 season. Following an excitement-laden 2009-10 campaign that included a scoring title, a near-knock off of the eventual NBA champs, and enough chemistry that even I can’t help but acknowledge it.
And for point of reference, after digging up an old report card, my chemistry marks from 10th grade are as follows: B, C, C-, C-.
At least I was consistent with my decline.
Now, what exactly are the reasons why the nation is as excited as it is?
Well, I’m about to tell you. That’s probably the reason why you clicked on this article. I’m all about catchy headlines.
Without further ado, five reasons to be head-over-heels excited for your Oklahoma City Thunder.
1. Kevin Durant
Yes, just Kevin Durant. While doing research for this article, I asked several people what they were excited for. The
only answer I received was simply “Kevin Durant.”
It’s a testament to how polarizing of a figure he is. Everything that encompasses the phenomenon that is “The Durantula” draws the general NBA fan in to every awe-inspiring game that he plays in.
Durant became the league’s youngest scoring champion at a fresh 21 years of age, averaging 30.1 points per game, propelling him to a second-place finish in MVP voting. Perhaps even more impressive was a streak of 29 games in which he scored 25 points or more, a modern–day NBA record.
But maybe the most impressive attribute about Durant is his humility. After all the hoopla over LeBron James’ “Decision,” Durant announced his contract extension via Twitter, in one simple, humble statement. It’s almost as if he has no idea that is, in fact, a superstar.
And to top it all off, he’s also the NBA’s first ever defending H-O-R-S-E champion.
Do you even need the other four reasons?
2. Big-game experience under their belts, particularly for Durant and Russell Westbrook
It’s probably about time I spend a few moments writing about other guys on the team.
While it was only a six-game series in which all games were won at home, the experience the whole team gained in the first round playoff series with the Los Angeles Lakers cannot be understated. The battle test against the NBA champs will stretch miles for the maturity and development of this young team, especially when the 2011 playoffs come around, because OKC will undoubtedly be there.
Now that they have had a taste of postseason play, the itch to return will drive the Thunder to another playoff seed. But this time, OKC likely won’t be playing with house money against the first overall seed and coach Scott Brooks will have his team mentally prepared for a deep run.
Along with last spring’s playoffs, Durant and Westbrook were lucky enough to participate in the FIBA World Championships this summer, cruising along on their way to a gold medal in Turkey. Durant, the de facto face of Team USA basketball and tournament MVP, led the squad in tournament play with 22.8 ppg, highlighted by a 38-point performance against Lithuania.
Westbrook averaged 9.1 ppg in just 19.4 minutes played, third-highest on the team.
3. Increasing chemistry and confidence of this young team
Well, as my previously aforementioned science expertise noted, this team is dripping with chemistry.
That, mixed with some healthy confidence creates what some people like to call “swagger.” It’s a dangerous thing. It’s usually the answer to the question “How did HE get HER?” Jay-Z has made a career out of it. Old Spice even has a signature fragrance dedicated to it.
But in this case, it allows certain teams to play a degree of basketball that is unmatched on the floor, regardless of skill levels.
Sure, the Thunder have talent on the roster. But admittedly there are far superior teams, talent-wise.
But think about it — can you count out the Thunder in any game that they play?
You can’t. They proved that despite the odds being stacked heavily against them, they can live up to any challenge as a group because of the faith they all have in each other as teammates. You can see it on the court and in the locker room. They’re like the 2009 Cavs, only not incessantly annoying to watch.
It’s because of the swagger.
This team knows its role in the NBA, accepts it, and dutifully tries to improve itself based upon it.
And it succeeds, every game.
Take note of where they are when they open the preseason at Charlotte on October 6 and where they end up—
the progress will be undeniable.
4. This could be Jeff Green’s coming out year
Could the Thunder have three All-Stars this season?
Well, maybe if it were playing in the Eastern Conference.
But while there is obviously a very slight chance that it could happen in the West, the prospect of it happening this season or in the future is out there.
Russell Westbrook will be an All-Star, either this year or the next.
But the question here is what to make of Jeff Green’s young career so far.
Coming out of Georgetown as the fifth overall selection in the same draft as Durant burdened him with high expectations to which he has mostly filled to this point. However, his numbers regressed a bit last season in a year where his teammates around him all improved.
To his credit, he did improve his field goal percentage slightly and turned the ball over less, but overall he didn’t seem to excel to the degree of his surrounding men. The 24-year-old Green will be entering his fourth NBA season, a pivotal time in a basketball player’s career.
Jeff Green is a fine NBA player. The question remains, however, as to what kind of NBA player he will develop into. Will he remain a 15/6/2 guy, or will he elevate his game to become an All-Star?
Just another reason to watch this season.
5. And finally—Rumble the Bison
Yes, a mascot.
But he’s probably the coolest one there is. Rumble was named the 2009 NBA Mascot of the Year just months after making his first appearance, an honor he intends on reclaiming from Bango, that horned-fella up in Milwaukee.
And he should have no problems starting a reign as top-mascot, either. What’s not to like?
He’s a modern-day Ringo Starr.
He dunks with the best of them. He’s even one heck of a ladies man. In other words, he’s got swagger.
Wonder where he picked it up from?