4 min read

The Side Part: Time Machine

The Side Part: Time Machine
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) shouts after a dunk in front of New York Knicks center Samuel Dalembert (11) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

AP Photo

To start with a positive, Russ has stayed great. In all the anger over Durant being down again it feels like there should be some acknowledgement of how good Russ has been, and not just in Durant’s absence, but before then, too. His PER is at 32.2. He’s pouring in 28, 10 and 8 on a nightly basis. He’s better than he was last year. A player of his caliber leading the league in assists is insane, and not near enough people are talking about. A guy that everyone got on for years for not being unselfish enough, for not being a “true” point guard, is leading the league in assists. That’s incredible. We’ve been so used to him being great that we forget what an amazing transformation it has been for him. To go from what he was when he first came into the league to what he is now is amazing, and a testament to how much work he’s put in. He’s a riddle.

It’s only been twelve games and there are a million years left in the season. It’s early but the Thunder are still at a four seed and have been without an MVP the last four games. They will be fine, but let’s vent anyway.

An impression of me when Kyle Singler checks in:

These last four games feel like last year. Durant in street clothes, clapping after Russ And-1’s, shouting about let’s get a stop. Russ out there with two torches, swinging them back and forth at arm’s length, the entire team behind him, a bunch of zombies bearing down from every angle.

This is an exhausting version of the Thunder to watch. There’s no margin for error. I’m only tense during these anymore, hoping Russ can do enough, praying he can get enough of the water out of the boat so it stays afloat a little longer. Until Kevin “Coast Guard” Durant shows up and makes things more pleasant. I spent an insane amount of time trying to think of a good The Guardian joke here.

I can’t even coherently think about this team anymore. I’m all in my feelings about it. Part of me thinks, if it had to happen, the timing of Durant’s injury is good because at least it’s early enough that whatever ground we lose might be able to be taken back. But then I hear myself think that and run my head into a wall for saying “injury” and “good” so close to together. At the risk of Seinfelding: What is the deal with these injuries? Is our karma that bad? Are these those rough patches all the people who are fans of teams that had extended periods of mediocrity told us we had to go through just because they did? Those people suck. I hate those people.

I’m so far from having perspective on any of this right now because of all the frustration, but if I try to rise up above the weeds I could say that even with Durant healthy there was something not all the way right about the start to the season. Things weren’t fully clicking. But a less than stellar start does not automatically equal a less than stellar season. The team needs to be whole so that it can learn about itself. Donovan needs to see these lineups at work. He needs to take chances experimenting. He needs to toy with it. He needs to grow himself. He needs to learn how to deal with the league with all the weapons he’s supposed to have at his disposal.

A season that was supposed to provide some answers has only provided more questions. Some that existed before the season (Can Durant stay healthy?), and some that are, basically, new.

A small sampling of the questions:

What happened to Kyle Singler? Is he the greatest practice player in the history of the league? Is that why he gets so many minutes? Why has he been a disaster? If he was good in Detroit around lesser players then why is he not better here? Does Donovan know that he’s been a disaster? These are his stats through 11 games. He didn’t play against the Spurs.

  • In 14 mins a game, he’s averaging 2.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 0.0 assists. He hasn’t recorded a single assist all year. That’s astounding. He’s shooting the ball 24% from the field and 25% from three. The guy seems like he plays hard, and the effort is there, but he’s just been bad.

Was it a mistake to get rid of Jeremy Lamb?

Is Anthony Morrow’s defense that bad that he can’t see more minutes when we’re fully healthy?

Should Cam get more minutes in two PG lineups with Russ? We know what we have, basically, in DJ, but could Cam give us more? Could he help us late in the season? Is this extremely wishful thinking? Probably? Why do I feel super comfortable when Cam has the ball in his hands? He has a way about him, no?

How great are these new Stance NBA socks? Do you have a pair? Aren’t they incredibly comfortable?

Why do bones break? Why do muscles tear? Why is cartilage so fragile?

That was all gross. I don’t mean to sound down about the season. By all accounts this hamstring injury is a minor one and Durant should be back soon. It’s super early, and there’s plenty of time to get things cooking. I suppose it’s just frustrating, right? Because the Thunder can be so good. They can be. They should be. They probably will be, assuming health. But then we’d be certifiably insane, as Thunder fans, to assume that.

Again, the season is a marathon, and all other clichés. Nothing is decided now, and Durant is back soon. Let’s speed ahead to that time.