And so it was that the one seed was ours and Kevin Durant didn’t win the scoring title and neither of those things matter at all.
There’s a YouTube video making its viral circles of late where Patton Oswalt improvises what he feels should be J.J. Abrams plan and plot for Star Wars Episode VII. The improvisation itself happened for the Parks & Recreation cameras. Mike Schur, the show runner, had told him to filibuster a town hall meeting by talking about whatever he wanted to talk about for as long as he could talk about it. If I was better at the Internet I’d link you to it. He brings everything together. The Marvel world meets Star Wars. Wolverine and Spider-Man rubbing their hairy, spidery elbows with Luke and Han. Boba Fett makes an appearance. Everything comes full circle.
I’ll use “we” periodically when talking about the Thunder from here on out. Like I’m a member of the team or something. This guy.
It was the Ford Center before it was anything else. The Thunder’s first regular season game ever, I was there. I sat in a seat with no legroom and ate a tub of popcorn and a pretzel and had sincere excitement to watch Robert Swift play.
We’d seen the Hornets for a year plus. These were the early Chris Paul years. The years before he started whining too much. He’s an even better player now, but even then the ball looked like it was created to fit his hand. I’m rambling on unimportant things.
My friend and college teammate, Heath, took myself and our other friend and college teammate, Eman, to the first regular season game in Oklahoma City Thunder history. Heath’s Dad had gotten season tickets and I was the beneficiary of some real kindness from some real kind people. We sat fairly high along some railing right above a walkway opposite the Thunder bench. They played the Bucks. Carlos Delfino torched us and Earl Watson scored the first points in Thunder history. He was our starting point guard. Earl Watson.
Somebody down the row from me was wearing a Nuggets jersey with the name “Bad Billy” on the back.
These were the dark times. The dead ones.
About last night.
Durant didn’t play. Needing seventy to take it from Melo, he conceded the scoring title. Seventy wasn’t happening and, seeing as how he’s only invincible in my mind, I’m fine with the organization insisting he sit. You don’t risk the meal ticket. You cover it in Saran Wrap and packing peanuts and fan him with palm branches until he tells you you can go get him a glass of water. Then you go get him two glasses of water because he’s the meal ticket. Russ, The Big Little Engine That Will, shakes his head while shopping for a new floral print from Zara or Band of Outsiders or some other store that you see in men’s magazines.
The game itself was relatively sleep worthy. The one plus being an opportunity to see Jones and Lamb and some of the other young guys get extended minutes since pretty much every important contributor for the Thunder was either sitting or playing very little.
Before the game they hung up the third Northwest Division Championship banner while game ops blared a Fall Out Boy song. Didn’t feel as important as it used to.
The Bucks, once again, won. Everything comes full circle.
Pau woke up from his coma and the Thunder play the Rockets in the first round. Yes. James is coming for us and he wants to be Oklahoma City’s reckoning.
The series itself will be Mike D’Antoni’s wettest dream come true. So many buckets to be had. But that talk ain’t sexy. That talk has no legs, no revenge, and no beard. This series is scorned James Harden and the team that scorned him and that is what matters and will matter when the dust settles in Bricktown and everyone goes and gets a slice from The Wedge Pizzeria. That potential revenge, that is where the oranges lie, and they will be squeezed until well after they’ve run out of juice.
A lot of juice will be spilled on this faux homecoming over the next couple weeks and there will be many an unoriginal thought verbalized and expounded upon talking about how poetic all this is and how of course we play Harden to start our playoff run and why did we have to trade him and so on and whatever. It’ll come from every angle and that awful dude with the highlights in his hair on First Take who always seems like he has to poop will start shouting even louder about how the Thunder can’t possibly win the whole thing without Harden. I don’t know that that’s true or not. I know that outlook loses credibility when shouted by a guy who can’t get varsity minutes at Midwest City, but that isn’t the real pertinent point at this moment. The Thunder are better than the Rockets. They just are.
Please don’t get it any kind of twisted. The amount of motivation Harden will have to play not just great ball, but legend ball, must be staggering. We traded him and he’s heard for the better part of the year, if he’s listening to intelligent people, that the numbers, both offensively and defensively, suggest we don’t miss him like many thought we would. This is his chance to show why it was that Brooks put the ball in his hands so often at the end of games last postseason. This is his chance to end dreams and seasons.
He’ll be back, Euro-stepping in April on the Peake wood once more. He’ll be in other colors now, wearing a lively kind of red, and there will be no cheers for him. Felt beards won’t litter the arena any longer and when his threes scrape the ground we won’t join in as we used to. We’ll yell at Thabo or Russ or, Bird help us, Fisher, and say you can’t give him those, because we’ve seen it before. We know. Or, maybe, we don’t. The scariest part of all this is the chance that, maybe, we didn’t know what we had. Maybe he was That Dude the whole time. Maybe he’s The Bearded Reaper and he’s coming for our basketball souls. Or, maybe he’s in for a wake up call. Maybe Collison takes thirty charges on him. Maybe Durant and Westbrook lay him over coals and hit the slow roast.
I don’t know, and that’s why this sport is so lovely.
Harden is coming back to where he started, to try to make sure those he started with don’t continue on. Everything comes full circle.
Week 1 is here: http://ballerball.com/thundering-fading-honeymoon/