The season is upon us now. Off in the hot distance, shimmering not as far away as it was, a dry ground looking wet. The summer’s a basketball fan’s desert. Draft talk and free agency brief oases in an otherwise steamed Sriracha Sahara of non-activity, story-line invention, and vamping.
That’s coming to a close, though. The schedule. The mighty, mighty schedule, has been released. With its release comes many thoughts. What’s the rotation going to look like? Just how good is Lamb? Will Scott Brooks have a new pair of glasses to debut during the in-game pre-recorded television interview? How many fans will hit the half-court shot this year? Is Nick Collison, in fact, Hercules? So on and so forth.
* * *
What wonders we have an opportunity to see.
A rejuvenated Westbrook, sure to have replaced that Texas sized chip on his shoulder with an Alaska sized one, those that dared think we’d be better without him having been proven very, very wrong. And, more importantly, with any luck, we get more of these. Really need a ringtone of Westbrook saying, “What’s up, bro?”
Durant, coming off a serious summer once more, trying to prove to the masses that the distance between the first and second best players in the league isn’t as wide as they think it is. We get a chance to see the furthering of his skill set yet again. He’s never not added something new to his game and in a few short months we get a chance to see what that thing is. Just how much has going against Anton Barrels helped him?
We get to see the continuing development of Reggie Jackson. A guy who put together a sneaky good postseason, especially considering the lion’s den circumstances he was flung into. We get to see if I overreacted (I probably did) and Derek Fisher does have something left in the tank. We get to see if Serge has acquired a post move to use on the block. We get to see if Hasheem has somehow become even more prolific on Instagram.
We get to see Thabo and if the yearly improvement in his corner three point shooting continues its upward trajectory? We get to watch him guard, which at times feels like the equivalent of getting to watch Roy Hobbs hit a baseball.
We get to keep track of the number of “At The End Of The Day, I’m Not Moving, You Can Walk Around Me” altercations that Kendrick Perkins will get into over the course of the season.
After a long off-season of James Harden chatter, we get to see just how ready and eager Westbrook and Durant are to shut all that up.
Really, we get to be the underdogs. Surely a welcome change from the bulls eye ridden days of the past couple years. To fly under the radar is a forgotten, beautiful thing.
The world will want to talk about the Chris Paul-Doc Rivers relationship. They’ll dissect Howard’s affect on the Rockets till all the cows have come home. They’ll talk about Marc Gasol and Zac Randolph and the rest of the Grindhouse trying to get back to where they were at the end of last season. We’ll hear excitement for the Warriors and the Timberwolves and hopes that they’ll stay healthy so the world can see just what they’re capable of when running at full strength. We’ll hear about Monta and Dirk and if it’s working or not. And we’ll hear whispers that maybe the Spurs are done, right up until they’re hovering around the top of the standings once more.
We’ll hear about the Knicks and what Metta World Peace was up to in New York on this day or that day. We’ll hear about the health of Derrick Rose’s ACL. We’ll hear about LeBron and Wade and the rest of that crew are trying to get their third in a row. We’ll hear about how the once proud Celtics have been reduced to Rondo and a bunch of assets and lottery hopes. We’ll hear about the Nets and their additions, if they’ve got the best starting five in the league, and if KG and Pierce still have enough in them to make one final run.
We’ll hear about the Lakers and the loss of Dwight and how much does Kobe have left in the tank and Pau’s unhappy and Steve’s back is hurting him oh wait now it’s his ankle oh wait now it’s his knee and Mike D’Antoni is not the man for the job and you guys don’t understand my name is Jim Buss and I’m in charge I don’t care who Phil Jackson is he thinks he’s better than me and he’s going out with my sister so I’m not hiring him again and blah and blah and so much more blah.
And all the while the Thunder will wait in the weeds, focusing on the process of playing, of getting better.
* * *
I remember five-ish years ago watching each and every Thunder game on Fox Sports Oklahoma. You couldn’t watch the games anywhere else. ABC and ESPN and TNT had zero interest in the stolen team from Seattle. These were the sad days of Thunder basketball. The days immediately following the mass selling of “NBA (Picture of a heart) OKC” T-shirts. The days where you could look around and still see a healthy amount of Desmond Mason Hornets jerseys. The days of Robert Swift and Carlesimo and moral victories. The days where good was having a team at all.
I watched all those games in my Shawnee home with my friend Cal. The house was small. The living room felt more like a roomy hallway. The kitchen floor was sinking. We had these mutant spider-cricket hybrid looking things that would appear in the bathtub every so often. Periodically the water heater would stop working. Sometimes the heater itself decided to die on us. When the wind blew hard the house shouted. We had to have the garage next door to the house demolished because, if a storm with a little too much juice came through, it would’ve collapsed in on the back bedroom. We’d cram into that living room with our Little Caesars pizzas and our Sonic Dr. Peppers and watch and cheer for a team we knew would probably lose.
Cal had gone to a Thunder game at one point and had acquired an orange “Rise Together” towel that had been draped over the back of his seat upon arrival. The towel, initially hung from our ceiling as a joke, became a staple of the living room viewing experience. You did not get in the towel’s way. You let it have a clear line of sight to the television. It needed to see the team whose mojo it was helping fuel. I used to watch games then and think about how cool it would be to see them play on national television more. That hope is now a fully realized dream.
Oh, how Adam Silver loves us.
Twenty-four nationally televised games. Twenty-four. Tied with the Lakers for the most in the league. I’m thankful for these for many reasons, the main one being that my job has taken me out of state but doesn’t pay me enough to get League Pass. I won’t have to illegally stream as many games through www.justin.tv anymore.
What kind of team we’ll watch is a bit more up in the air than it has been the past couple years. Maybe we’re better than we were last year. Maybe we’re worse. It could go either way. That makes for interesting television, and people like interesting.
We’re a little under three months till The Peake is loud once more. God bless us, every one. Especially Nick Collison.