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Remember the playoffs? Specifically, the first round? The postseason is a pressure cooker, where habits built up over the season, possession-by-possession focus, and personal mettle separate the men from the boys. And I’m just talking about fans. It’s at turns thrilling and excruciating to watch your team trade punches on the biggest stage, and Thunder fans were among the most thrilled and tortured from 2010 (their early entry into the postseason fray) to 2020 (the last hurrah with Chris Paul’s rebuild temp squad).
But the first round is just for misery. The first round gets coaches fired and legacies spoiled. If you’re hoping for a bottom-4 seed in the playoffs, you’re hoping for misery, as it’s rare for underdogs to advance in the NBA. So while I am yet again watching the playoffs and yearning for the day when OKC is involved once more, I am not too heartbroken as an opening series observer. The Thunder’s long-term sights are much higher than the first round, and it should be nothing more than a stepping stone when they’re back in it in the years to come.
So instead of envying this year’s postseason competitors, let’s revel in the misery of others.
Lest we forget how extreme the Thunder’s rebuild has been, it’s worth noting that there are a whopping five players belonging to 2022 playoff rotations who were on Oklahoma City’s roster within the last 16 months: Al Horford, Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams (situationally benched), and George Hill (injured). Shouts to former Thunder legends Svi Mykhailiuk, Charlie Brown, Jr., and Tony Bradley, who are also available for postseason garbage time.
Lest we forget how timely the Thunder’s rebuild origins were, Russell Westbrook and Paul George* are currently making a whopping $83.6 million in salary from deals signed in OKC, while not appearing in the 2022 playoffs. Shouts to Dennis Schroder, whose $15.5 million in salary obligation inherited by OKC was traded to the Lakers, for whom he appeared in 6 total playoff games during their 2021 first round exit. *George had a ‘21-22 player option on his Thunder deal, which was supplanted by his maximum extension for the Clippers after he was traded to LA.
Because we’re petty: Kevin Durant and the Nets were swept from the playoffs. James Harden’s Sixers struggled to close out the undermanned Raptors. And Russ deleted all of his Instagram posts, first just those involving the Lakers before taking the rest of them down.
The Daily Thunder Podcast crew mocked the 2022 lottery with Oklahoma City’s interests in mind. AJ Griffin believers, beware.
DT’s Brandon Rahbar revisited DT’s preseason predictions. An impartial judge if there ever was one.
The DT reader predictions contest shook out in favor of our beloved Memo, who is truly back. Our readership excelled as a whole, beating Vegas on average and pushing Brandon Rahbar and John Napier into the bottom-10 of the results. Don’t look now, but Ash is verging on a dynasty with three last-place finishes in the last five ears. A history of the predictions contest can be found at Mister Presti’s Neighborhood.
Vit Krejci is learning about Oklahoma weather. At least it’s not the hard way.
J.D. Tailor (Welcome to Loud City) says it’s time for the Thunder to look to add significant, established players alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: “Rudy Gobert and DeAndre Ayton are two players who currently play in uncertain situations. Ayton believes that he has earned a maximum contract but the Suns’ ownership have been previously unwilling to pay him that money. Negotiations went nowhere and DeAndre will hit restricted free agency. Oklahoma City could put together a compelling trade offer involving picks, quality depth and young players to make that deal happen. Ayton is a player worth overpaying for; DeAndre is a legitimate two-way force whose age profile fits the Thunder’s core and he will only get better.”
RIP to Brandon Dale, a member of Thunder Nation who will be sorely missed. I didn’t know Brandon well, but can add to the chorus of those remarking that he was extremely kind and fun to talk to in our limited online interactions. The Vista, where Brandon worked as sports editor, published a moving tribute (page 4).