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Those two simple words were Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s message to his teammates on a delayed flight to Memphis.
Typically, an NBA team will travel to the next city on the schedule immediately following that night’s game, showers and media locker room, err, Zoom calls. But typically, a team isn’t buried in two feet of snow outside after being buried by Dame’s two Thunder clad feet inside.
“Obviously the circumstances were a little bit different tonight. But it’s our job. And no matter what, we have to play to our standards,” SGA expanded on his no excuses mantra.
Shai, we’re gonna have to agree to disagree. The Thunder had plenty of excuses to lose that game to the Grizzlies. Let us count the ways.
- The airplane landed an hour and 45 minutes before tipoff. So while Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke were busy bricking warm up shots, the Thunder had the same amount of time it takes to watch Big Trouble In Little China to deboard, get to the arena, change clothes, eat a Nutri-Grain bar and run out in time for the national anthem.
- It was the second night of a back to back. Sure, Memphis had played the night before as well, but the Grizz were in their natural habitat and did not have to travel.
- The Thunder were without their second best player and All Star candidate, according to the adorably optimistic official Thunder Twitter account, Al Horford.
- The Thunder were without their third or fourth best player, depending on your thoughts of Luguentz, George Hill.
- It was SGA’s first game back after missing the last four due to knee soreness. Some rust would be thunderstandable.
Shai, that’s five better excuses off the top of my head than I ever came up with in an entire four year high school career of tardies and ditch days. With a handful of built-in free passes, nobody would blame OKC for cashing one or two in and phoning in a performance for once. But this team is as averse to using excuses as they are to deliberately tanking a game for better draft odds.
Turns out, Shai has been leading the Thunder on the court with his All Star level play and leading the Thunder off the court with his All Grown Up level maturity. OKC fans have witnessed SGA develop his talent in less than one and a half seasons to the point where he was tied with Chris Paul as the #7 guard in the West as voted by NBA players. Coincidentally, the time spent learning from CP3, one of the smartest players the league has ever seen, put SGA’s leadership development on the fast track.
Mike Muscala’s media call confession of SGA’s “no excuses” policy was just the latest example of a Thunder player relaying the 22 year old point guard’s group guidance. From team olds like Moose and Al Horford to Shai’s peers Lu Dort and Darius Bazley to rookie point guard Theo Maledon, the squad collectively recollects Shai’s vocal effects.
The Thunder’s valid excuses aren’t a historic snowstorm singularity. No team has more reasons to be a bad, uncompetitive this season than OKC. CP3, Dennis Schroder, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams were traded away to bottom out for the precise purpose of losing games. The roster is littered with pups, as the Thunder regularly roll out an NCAA-aged rotation. While most teams have been in pursuit of stars, OKC has collected cast offs, journeymen, underperformers, and second round and undrafted projects. The team has two well respected vets. Horford was considered washed and on the worst contract in the league and he rests on every back to back. George Hill is out for a month.
Besides SGA, every Thunder player is a walking, talking, slam dunking excuse. But given this scrappy squad’s effort, will and fight every single night, you’ll have to excuse Shai for not buying those excuses.
The Thunder play a motivated Milwaukee team with the back to back MVP and back to back to back to back to back losses tonight. The Bucks will have revenge on their minds after the Valentine’s Day dagger shot into their hearts by Justin Jackson. It’s on the road. Giannis has an All Star teammate in Khris Middleton. Despite their recent struggles, the Bucks are still the #3 team in the East and had the best record in the NBA last season.
Sounds like a bunch of excuses to me.