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If you sought to summarize the 2020-2021 Thunder season in one play, Hamidou Diallo provided the perfect specimen against the Denver Nuggets.
At the end of the third quarter on Friday night, Jamal Murray heaved a half court hail mary that Diallo jumped up and caught after the Wilson hit the backboard. A goal-tend was correctly called and a Thunder 12 point lead was cut to 9 heading into the final period. Hami handed Denver a free 3 and the Nuggets ultimately won by 2.
Hamidou’s hiccup of a slip-up wound up fans staying up to Thunder Up. Half the OKC fandom bemoaned the blunder and denounced Diallo, while the other half hailed Hami a hero. Twitter takes got hot, as Team Compete typed 280 characters devoted to his decision making and Team Tank tweeted their approval in the form of Cade Cunningham memes.
Whether you’re on the side psyched about more percentage points in the NBA draft lottery or the side sick of fumbling away large leads late, the truth is no one play in the 3rd quarter should be blamed for a loss. Diallo’s DeAndre Hopkins had Hamidou catching heat, but the goal-tend gaffe was not why OKC squandered the chance to beat the Western Conference runner-ups. The OKC offense only scoring 16 points in the final quarter was the real culprit.
The truly tragic part of all this is that while Diallo is being blamed by many for one bad play, he is not receiving recognition and applause by nearly enough for his season-long rad play. Hami pulled a She’s All That, transforming himself over the offseason from a dorky dunk champ with no discernable NBA skill into an efficient, beautiful Rachael Leigh Cook with elite finishing ability who drops double digits daily.
Coming into this season, Hami was the Chris Kirkpatrick of the Thunder young core. If you’re asking yourself, “Who is Chris Kirkpatrick?”… exactly. Kirkpatrick was the member of NSYNC whom everyone forgot existed. Fans adore the popular faces of the group like Justin Timberlake and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And lead singers’ sidekicks such as JC Chasez and Lu Dort stick in the brain. The goofy ones always stand out, looking at you Joey Fatone and Darius Bazley. Wow I’m really going all in on this NSYNC analogy. Oh well, if any Thunder writer was going to embarrass himself with boy band knowledge, It’s Gonna Be Me. Everyone remembers the fashion icons such as Lance Bass and Aleksej Pokusevski. But nobody clamored for any Kirkpatrick solo albums or for any Diallo solo isos.
One third of the way into the season, the forgotten member of the Thunder core has become a core memory.
Diallo has scored 15 or more points in eight straight games. He’s hit double digits in 12 straight. Three times this season, Hami has scored 20 or more. In three of his last five games, Diallo’s notched double doubles. He’s recording career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, three point percentage and free throw percentage.
Among his OKC teammates, Hami ranks third in points, fourth in rebounds, fifth in assists, first in steals, and fourth in field goal percentage. As far as effort, energy and hustle, Diallo ranks third on the team but that’s only because Kenrich Williams and Lu Dort exist.
Diallo deserves a lot of credit for his basketball metamorphosis and equally merits a pardon for his faux pas.
Hami haters and Diallo doubters were dwindling by the day before Goal-Tend Gate. But don’t let that single snafu color your opinion on OKC’s most improved player. Despite Dort’s defense, Bazley’s bounce, Maledon’s maturity and Poku’s potential, an argument could be made that Hamidou Diallo is the Thunder’s second best young player.
You may hate me but it ain’t no lie, baby. Bye bye bye.
- Up Next: back to back MVP Giannis and his All Star buddy Khris against the Shailess Thunder at The Peake. Sounds like another 20 point first half lead —> one point overtime loss.