To receive Thunder Journals in your morning inbox (hours or days before they publish to DailyThunder.com), join our supporters on Patreon.
Thunder Media Day 2021 had a running theme throughout its three-hour Q&A session: Everybody Loves Shai… mond.
SGA is the lone exclamation point on an OKC squad littered with question marks running rampant throughout the roster. Does Lu Dort take the next step in his ascension from undrafted defensive specialist? Will Josh Giddey prove himself worthy of the #6 overall pick? Is this a make or break season for Darius Bazley? Will Derrick Favors play real minutes or be flipped before I publish this article? Did Poku really put on some muscle this offseason?
That last question, by the way, was the most hotly debated amongst the handful of media members gathered during a quick food break in the action. For those keeping score at home, Cliff Brunt of the AP says no, Christine Butterfield of The Franchise was undecided and Brandon Rahbar of Daily Thunder felt like Poku improved from say Christian Bale in The Machinist to DJ Qualls in Road Trip. To the naked eye, skinny looks skinny, but there are levels to this.
The one #ThunderMuscleWatch2021 subject everyone in the room agreed on was that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looked like he was training for the Over The Top reboot. Without a doubt, SGA has spent a lot of time in the gym and the weight room this summer. While his physical transformation from the CP3 team to now is clear, OKC’s transformation to becoming an SGA team is even more evident after every Thunder player spoke glowingly of Shai’s talent, character and leadership.
Realizing every Thunder fan reading this article can easily find videos and transcripts of each player’s presser with a few online clicks, this journal entry will highlight the best SGA hype from Thunder Media Day.
Ty Jerome: “Honestly if you were just hanging out with him for a day, you’d never know it. Super humble. One of the best teammates I’ve ever had in any stage of my life.”
Jerome’s quote was in response to SGA signing the rookie max extension this offseason. It may not be as well known as the SGA/Dort or SGA/Baze bromances, but Shai and Ty became close friends over the past year.
Kenrich Williams: “I personally didn’t know he was that good. He is one of the best young players in the NBA.”
This Kenny Hustle quote sums up every Thunder fans’ metamorphosis of opinion on Shai from the time he was traded from the Clippers to now.
Mike Muscala: “He’s the best player on our team and one of the best players in the NBA.”
When the Moose bellows, Thunder fans listen.
Vit Krejci: “Shai is one of the most positive persons I’ve ever seen. I think that’s a good approach to everything in life, not just basketball.”
I’m glad the new guy mentioned it because it’s not really ever spoken about, but SGA really does always have an optimistic outlook on his teammates, his coaches and himself. His talent on the court has been discussed ad nauseum over the past year, but Shai’s maturity and mindset are next level as well.
Tre Mann: “On the court, I’m learning how poised he is and how crafty he is. On TV, it looks like Shai is moving slow, but guarding him, you realize how fast and shifty he is.”
Mann has spent about 10 minutes on the court with SGA and has immediately brought up all the usual Shai adjectives: poised, crafty, shifty. The only one he left out was “smooth.” I’ll give Mann one official practice with Shai before he punches that on his SGA BINGO card.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: “I will be better this year. I feel stronger as well as faster.”
From the horse’s, excuse me, goat’s mouth himself.
This upcoming Thunder season is viewed by the organization as a baseline to discover which young players are keepers without any pesky veterans like Al Horford, George Hill or Chris Paul getting in the way of development. The roster is sprinkled with high upside, fun, intriguing prospects. However, every one of them is burdened by a question mark and the potential not to reach their potential. 2021-2022 will be exciting for those who enjoy watching young players break out, but wins will be few and far between.
But the Thunder did get a gigantic win when they signed a 23 year old, top 30 player in the NBA to a five year extension this summer. And as a new season dawns, it’s perfectly acceptable for the team to spend Media Day celebrating one of the league’s best young players.
Shai only comes with one question mark: how great can he be? According to his coach, teammates and the man himself, SGA is already one of the best players in the league… and he’s getting stronger, faster and better.