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A note from the editor:
On Thursday, Russ came home. It was emotional, surreal, and somehow calming. In a week that saw the Thunder play a rebuilt Sixers contender (perhaps a preview of the Thunder’s future) and a perennial Rockets contender (with a plucked Thunder hero of the past in Westbrook), I didn’t know if we were supposed to be looking backward or forward.
Earlier this season, we dedicated a whole week of content to Russell Westbrook at Daily Thunder. Many Thunder fans have insisted that they are ready to follow the new Oklahoma City roster exclusively, with no need for writers wandering to cover what former OKC stars are up to now. And as far as Thunder topics go, Good Russ vs. Bad Russ is up there with the Harden trade as being nearly done to death. But let me let you in on a secret: our readers care very much about Westbrook, and about how others choose to root for or against him now that he’s a member of the Houston Rockets.
Since John Napier and I assumed ownership of Daily Thunder, we have devoted nearly every DT article to the current team: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Steven Adams, Luguentz m’fing Dort. We have also posted a handful of articles with “Russell Westbrook” or “Kevin Durant” in the title. This has not been clickbait aggregation stretching any half-quote into a Thunder hot take for the site, but commentary designed intentionally around significant developments in the careers of both. Many, many readers have protested too loudly, saying they are “over it” when it comes to KD and Russ. Sure enough, our analytics show that both page view and engagement for these posts outperform all other topics we publish.
It’s okay if you are not, in fact, over it. We know that if what felt like the ultimate betrayal by Durant is still a sore spot for Thunder fans, of course the sting of losing Westbrook and Paul George would not go away in mere months, no matter how amicable or asset-enriching the breakup was for the Thunder. The point of Westbrook Week was simply to acknowledge that and give voice to the experience–for those who were sick of Russ but still miss him, for those who are struggling to cheer quite as loudly now that he’s not on the court, or for those who would be fine if he had just wound up anywhere other than the foul-chasing headquarters of the universe.
The strong play of this short-timer OKC squad has certainly helped ease the sudden completion (collapse?) of the first era of Thunder basketball. Chris Paul and co. have made tanking look unappetizing, while also providing a decidedly less stressful fan experience than the last few years of title-dreaming presented. There’s something relaxing about watching shades of your own team’s former title-or-bust pressures envelop other cities, especially when your team is the one giving them heartburn.
We won’t be covering so many non-Thunder players frequently. But the question of how Thunder-world relates to them is still ongoing, and we’ll keep a little no-judgment space open for your wandering eyes at DT in the months to come.
– Cray Allred