2 min read

Paradise Lost: Where did all the Thunder love go?

I wrote a thing for ESPN.com today about the Thunder and the current mood and mindset as the team digs in to their sixth season in Oklahoma City. The cliffnotes are: It’s been really good so far in OKC, but almost too good. The Thunder have two elite NBA players, they’re super fun to watch and they’re really good.

For whatever reason, a lot of that fairytale feel that hovered around them for the first couple years is gone, and to me, that’s directly related to the decision to move James Harden. It’s a move people probably aren’t ever going to be able to completely rationalize or justify, much less move on from.

But regardless, the Thunder have an elite, contending team with some really awesome players still. And in the long run, maybe the Harden deal will be a good thing to wake the Thunder fanbase up a little and remind them that no, it’s not really this easy. Maintaining a playoff team is hard, winning championships is really hard.

I understand the feeling that there’s a title window to capitalize on right now and that’s where a lot of the anxiety and agitation comes in, but the idea with a window is that there’s some time before it closes. And the Thunder have at least three years of it staying open, guaranteed.

Life is still good for Oklahoma City basketball fans. It’s really good, in fact. Don’t misunderstand sticking to a philosophy and a plan for not trying to win. The Thunder’s ownership has spent money and will spend more. They aren’t allergic to the luxury tax, but like I said in the piece, they just aren’t willing to pay it and tack on a season towards becoming a repeater just to use the mid-level exception on Dorell Wright. That type of financial foresight and prudence is what built the thing you’re watching right now.

Sam Presti is a principled general manager that doesn’t lose himself in “championship window” talk. Perspectives may shift again after this season if the postseason goes poorly and Thunder fans endure another quiet summer. I’m not trying to sit here and say the front office is infallible or has made every right decision (Byron Mullens Cole Aldrich, cough cough). But there’s at least three seasons of the good stuff left, and Presti’s doing his best to try and make sure it extends well past that.