We have finally made it. The off-season is now in rear view mirror and the season is upon us. What a difference a year makes for this Thunder franchise. The organization, team and city was shell shocked a year ago as Kevin Durant joined the super-team. The morale and outlook was low as Russell Westbrook carried the team to a playoff run. Tonight, the OKC Thunder will unveil their new toys.
Now, we fast forward one more year. Excitement and optimism reign supreme as no organization had as good of an off-season as the Oklahoma City Thunder did. The burning question was could Sam Presti put enough talent with Westbrook to make the Thunder a contender again. The additions of Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton suggest the Thunder can challenge this year.
Oklahoma City Thunder Face New Challenges in Season Opener
All of the word around the campfire has been how would Oklahoma City be able to share one ball with Westbrook, Anthony and George. All three players have high usage rates and want the ball in their hands. Comparatively, Golden State had that challenge a year ago as well with Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. We all know how that turned out.
If history is any indication, it will take some time for the Thunders’ version of the big three to get to that level of cohesion the team is looking for. However, with the exhibition season as the sample size, the productivity got better each game. Westbrook, George and Anthony each led the team in scoring in one game each. While every player will have the ball in their hands a lot, being on a contending team and having quality players around you is a good compromise for having to carry the load night in and night out.
As the Thunder prepare for the 2017 season opener, they will welcome some familiar faces back to Chesapeake Energy arena. Doug McDermott and Enes Kanter will be on the floor tonight as members of the New York Knicks. Kanter was a fan favorite for the Thunder. As he enters the floor, do not expect anything but a standing ovation for the individual who was as outspoken as any in terms of his love for the city and the organization. Lastly, McDermott was not a member or the Thunder for a long time but was a key reserve off the team from a year ago.
Conversely, it is tough not to ignore the animosity that the New York Knicks organization and Anthony had with one another. Anthony’s love for the city is unquestioned, but his relationship particularly with Phil Jackson had reached a point of no return.
Oklahoma City may not be at full strength for the season opener tonight. Two of the aforementioned newly acquired Thunder players Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton are questionable for the game. Patterson is still recovering from off-season surgery, but has been through full contact for the last two days of practice. Likewise, for Raymond Felton and his injured wrist. Felton injured that wrist in the pre-season but has also been part of contact drills leading up to tonight.
Oklahoma City is coming in tonight as a 12-point pick over New York. There will be a lot of emotion in the arena tonight. Whether that emotional angle is how much Anthony wants to close the chapter of his relationship with the Knicks with an outstanding performance, or how the newest big three will perform under the light. One thing can be for certain, there will be no shortage of interesting moments. I see the Thunder struggling early with all of the emotion before pulling away late as those nerves begin to settle. Oklahoma City 105 New York 96.
BARCELONA, SPAIN – OCTOBER 05: Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City Thunder looks on during the warm up prior to the NBA Global Games Spain 2016 match between FC Barcelona Lassa and Oklahoma City Thunder at Palau Sant Jordi on October 5, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)