Gearing up for the run

27 Apr

After I went to a slew of games last March, I got so excited at how good the OKC-Thunder were playing.

They looked sooooooo good. March had me penciling in dates to purchase tickets for the Western Conference Finals.

Other than a beating that the Spurs (I got 50 on them to win it all) I thought the Thunder were capable of smacking anyone. They’d beat on the Lakers, they’d beat up on the Clippers ( I was at the first post D-Fish acquisition game) and they played a thrilling double overtime game against the T-wolves where I had sat 9 rows behind the basket.

I worried a little that they were peaking too early but they seemed to be so much better than the top teams. Chicago (minus Derek Rose)

got stomped and no one seemed to be able to match our depth, athleticism, and we had a nasty 3 headed monster of Westbrook, Durant, and Harden. I left these games feeling inspired, and hopeful thinking to myself that this was my favorite set of basketball players of all time. I went to a local OKC bar and started what I thought would be my next blog. It started out like this:

I should have realized something was up earlier today when I arrived.

Oklahoma City seemed to have a strong police presence downtown.

Every other vehicle seemed to belong to a police officer, gang unit, sheriff, or highway patrolmen.

Even when I was at the library, things seemed high alert. Cops were crawling all over the second floor and it made me slightly uncomfortable. There was something going on. I knew this wasn’t just Marijuana induced paranoia.

It wasn’t until someone sent me a text to tell me that Barack was gonna be at the game did things start making sense. Certain streets I couldn’t even walk down and then I remembered my knife in my pocket. I’d have to find a place to hide that thing before going into the building. OKC already had a bad enough rep for terrorism. A weapons charge would be just one of many I’d get if I weren’t careful. Tonight a parking garage would be my best bet.

Limousines at the Thunder game were the first indicator that these boys were the hot ticket.

There are many reasons why the Thunder boys are my favorite team.

Reason 1: Kevin Durant. My favorite player on the planet. I can’t get over how smooth he is. Tonight he had this incredible reverse lay-up on two dudes that made me throw my arms over my head like I was in an And 1 mix tape crowd. The play ignited a nice little run that punctuated with an Ibaka steal then and Ibaka dunk then an Ibaka jumper.

Each time I looked at the scoreboard I was surprised at how many points Durant had. He didn’t seem like he’d shot the ball but three times, but sure enough he had 14 in the first quarter. I looked up again in the 4th and he had 29 , and finished the game with 33points. He’d quietly and (seemingly) effortlessly put in 33 points and 9 big boards. I don’t need to go into how I fell in love with his game because I’ve already have. So I’ll move on to the other players.

Reason #2 Russell Westbrook. He is so good at so many things and he’s only 23 years old. Some people bitch that he shoots too much (I agree) and that he is petulant and moody (agreed). But the boy can flat out ball. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s quick. He can score in so many ways, and sure sometimes it takes him 30 shots sometimes to score what Durant can get in half as many shots. I say so what. You can’t teach the physical gifts that Russell has. Bro plays Defense and bro wants to win so badly that he’ll do what it takes……he’s the kind of talent that is so good, why would he want the ball in someone else’s hands? Well because the thunder have Durant who is as pure a scorer as you’ll see in this lifetime.

Russ is grimey(reminds me of Bodie)and he’s competitive, and he’s only 23. he can learn how to pass. And honestly I believe he’s a natural 2-guard and have been saying so for at least a season and a half.

Before he got his extension there were many cats at the bar who were calling for him to be traded. I thought he could be but didn’t think the Thunder would get a good return on him and it’d ruin the chemistry. This one dumbass just kept saying, he shoots too much, he turns the ball over too much—even after we signed the extension (which at this point was a waste of time to discuss we’re married to him). It drove me crazy. Finally I put it to him like this. Say that John (drunkard at bar) is dating a 23 year old smoking hot bombshell. John is a skinny faced Irishman who’s face gets red when he drinks. His girlfriend not only is hot, but is also really fucking cool too. She cooks great food. She gives John his freedom because she is finishing medical school. She also gives John the best head he’s ever had whenever he wants and has sex with him at least 3 nights a week (with the daily blow job on top of that) her only flaw is that she sometimes she gets out of control when she goes out and drinks, and she likes to watch dumb sitcoms on CBS. Do you drop this chick because she is young and does what young 23 year old girls do? If you’re John then yes.

And that’s the difference between me and John. I’d be fucking this hot ass 23 year old girl and hope to ride out all the immature stuff til she becomes marriage material, and John would be at the bar, drinking and complaining, thinking about jacking his dick when got back to his empty apartment.

There’s nothing wrong with Westbrook. He’s just young and playing out of position.”

I never got any further. The Madness of March ate me up and before I knew it, I found myself drinking scotch on a college buddy;s porch in Galveston, TX. My eye was twitching from lack of sleep and my body was screaming at me to get some rest.

From the above text you can tell I was a bit carried away but the enthusiasm surrounding this time was at the time warranted. Me and every other OKC fan was giddy, feeling a bit guilty for swiping the Sonics from Seattle, but nonetheless grateful for what landed in our lap ( kind of like a dude who lands a chick who used to be fat, and had low self esteem but quickly lost her weight and went to therapy–now the ex-bf is thinking: “why couldn’t she have been like that when we were dating”).

So they haven’t been playing well of late, and this has caused some discomfort among the OKC fans everywhere. They do seem inconsistent at times, they are taking too many jumpers, and San Antonio does look very much in championship form. But I don’t care.

Win or lose this, minus Derek Fisher (he’ll always be a Laker in my eyes) this has to be my favorite collection of basketball players of all time.

The ’93 Phoenix Suns were one of my favorite teams to watch. Barkley, Majarle, Ainge, KJ, and Ceballos was a very entertaining group that I rooted like hell for to beat the mighty Jordan-Bulls. They fell flat and lost some pivotal games. I didn’t know enough about hoops then to understand that they didn’t have what it took to win a championship (I’ve even heard rumors that Chuck was partying the week of the Finals while Jordan was chomping at the bit).

The old Blazers of ’99-00 was a collection of great players, featuring my boy Rasheed Wallace should have beaten the Lakers. But they blew it. Openeing the door to a Kobe-Shaq dynasty that lasted waaaayyy too long. The Lakers would destroy anyone in their path during these runs, including a very young Kings team which had my boy C-Webb and back then a very grimy Mike Bibby. Those Kings teams were fun and entertaining but couldn’t play D.

But none of the aforementioned teams hold the sentimental value that this 2011-2012 OKC team has for me.

Let’s take it back to 2002. In 2002 I was working for the University of Texas, as an usher security person.

It was at this job that I was first introduced to one of my favorite college players of all time, Nick Collison. He rocked it, he chalked it, bro put up 20-20’s in his sleep on his way to nearly leading the KU Jayhawks to a national title. They of course fell short. But that Jayhawk team was loaded with talent and was one of my favorite college teams of all time. they had Hinrich, Keith Langford, Michael Lee, Aaron Miles and were it not for some precocious freshman named Carmelo Anthony ( and a sudden case of free throw-itis), they’d have been crowned the National champs.

During that same era, I had a chance to see some high school hoops– Texas style.

UIL state tourneys are a big deal down there and there was a point where crowds came down in droves to see the great T.J. Ford play. I had actually missed his back to back state championship run. But I was around to catch Chris Bosh and his 40-0 Lincoln Tigers beat a Kendrick Perkins led Beaumont team in the state final. Kendrick beasted and at the time they were calling him baby Shaq and all these crazy nicknames. He was a specimen and there was no doubt back then that he was going straight to the LEAGUE.

We already know how I feel about Durant. He had me at hello. I watched him during my last stint in Austin at pre-season game. There were rumors about this freshman phenom and he didn’t disappoint. he scored effortlessly and seemed to glide about the court. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. From that point on, my fascination progressively grew as did his legend. People here in Oklahoma talk about the double-OT game in Stillwater, people in Lawrence will never forget the game where he put up 40 on them at Allen fieldhouse (though the Jayhawks did win that game), in a match up of future NBA bound players battling it out (I acutally had this game circled and unwisely picked up an afternoon shift at the Berkeley bistro I worked at– I was physically ill when I read the box score and game summary and consequently grew to resent my job more and more before I finally just stopped showing up–missing that game is one of my all time biggest regrets not involving a woman).

So my life has come full circle and it seemed like destiny when KD and I ended up in the same state.  He is without a doubt my favorite college and NBA player of all time.

The other guys on the team are fun to watch as well. I met Royal Ivey a few times back in the T.J. Ford-Austin days and I alwasy enjoyed those interactions. I watched Cole Aldrich win a title at KU (white people love Cole Aldrich). James Harden is our version of Manu Ginobolli, and a treat to watch. He can get his shot off anytime he wants, and he knows this.

I watched Daquan Cook play in one of the best halves of basketball I’d ever seen, during a UNC- OHIO STATE November matchup back in 2006 (UNC ran the Oden-less Buckeyes off the court during the second half though).

Serge Ibaka is what Emeka Okafur should have been (shouts out to Bellaire high school in Houston, Texas). he blocks, he rebounds, he even has a jumper.

I like the whole team (minus Fisher of course– I hope his labor union troubles don’t create bad juju for the team come playoff time).

It has the feel of a college team. I’ve watched most of these guys play since their college days and having done so, creates the illusion of an invested relationship in most of them. This team will be different come next year. Harden and Ibaka are both restricted free agents next year. It will be difficult signing both of them. Before the Ron Artest elbow last Sunday, me and some friends had been arguing about the value of both players and who we needed to sign more. That foolish discussion has been put to rest thanks to the player formerly known as Metta World Peace.

Knowing that this particular group won’t be together puts a bit of urgency on them to win this year (which is still a possibility–you never know what can happen in a lockout fueled post-season). There is no telling who will be here next year. So I will enjoy this run. They may get bounced in the second round. They may go all the way. I’m just going to enjoy watching them. Seeing them in person, you can see what a tight unit they are and how much they enjoy playing together.

No matter what happens this will go down as one of the all-time entertaining teams I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. I’ve been to more NBA games this year than I have collectively in my life.

OKC games are a blast. Hot cheerleaders, a cool club like atmosphere in the nose-bleed sections, the small ball lineup of Harden, Durant, Fisher, Ibaka, and the mighty Westbrook (my favorite go to when I’m playing NBA 2K-12 against my boy Roach), and great fans make rooting for the team a great viewing experience.

Even if they don’t win it all this year, I’ll consider myself lucky for being able to take the ride with them this year. It’s just as fun seeing how far they have come in such little time.

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