The wait has been painful.
There is no other way to phrase it. The upcoming season for the Oklahoma City Thunder has had as much buildup as any season could. The past year has been filled with praise, turmoil, success and utter disappointment.
It started with The Trade. Ridiculed and picked apart, it left us to wonder if they’d ever hear the end of it. Would they ever fully recover? They answered with a resounding yes, going on to have a top two offense in the NBA, while clinching the #1 seed in the West.
Then IT happened. No one saw it coming, as no one would anticipate such a thing. Everyone was blindsided by The Injury. It was followed by a faint hint of “I think HE can still carry us”, but that only lasted for a while. The season ended with more questions than answers.
How good were they really? Would they have won it all? If The Trade hadn’t happened, would they have pushed forward without slowing down? Were they really better than the year before? Was that even possible? Would they have come 28.2 seconds away from winning the title? Closer? Were the Heat a bad matchup for them? Did they ever even have a chance?
We’ll never have the answers to any of those questions, but they’ll continue to linger in our minds. The real problem is that new questions have been posed, which can be answered, but not for quite some time. Time that only represents agony. And more questions.
Was the offseason really that bad? What if everyone else got better while they got worse? Jeremy Lamb? What if he isn’t good enough yet? What if he never is? Will Russ be the same? I mean, EXACTLY the same? Like, nothing changed at all? Like that stupid injury never happened?
What if Scott Brooks isn’t the right guy? Is their offensive system enough? Did they choose Serge over James, or did it just kinda look that way? What if Serge isn’t quite what we need Serge to be? Derek Fisher? Again? Really?!? What if they don’t win next year? What if they don’t come close? What if something goes wrong again and we don’t get any answers? I mean, they have to win eventually, right? Like, no matter what? It’s definitely going to happen. It has to. It has to? Why does it have to? WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!?
To say that the buildup to this season is generating some serious jitters would be an understatement. The excitement will clearly overwhelm all of the other emotions once they start running up and down the court, but the expectations are there, and the naysayers will be out in full force should everything not go to plan. But in the search for answers, the Thunder do have a direction to turn.
There is one man with no questions surrounding him, no doubts or concerns. The man who tried to carry them through their darkest moment last year, and left it all on the floor.
Kevin Durant remains the reason the Thunder have no fear about whatever all this anticipation leads to. When it comes down to it, he will be the man that answers the questions. Does he have ALL the answers? Of course not. But combine him with a healthy Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, and expect the league to be quickly reminded why they shouldn’t be doubting the Thunder.