How I cost the Oklahoma City Thunder the NBA title, but why it won’t happen again.
Before the NBA Playoffs I picked the Miami Heat to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder to win the NBA championship. After Game 1 of the NBA Finals, I got so caught up in my newfound Thunder fandom and how the team played in Game 1 that I backed away from my original pick (something I never do as long as it’s still alive) and flip flopped like Magic Johnson.
So I blame myself for the Thunder losing in five games to the Heat in the NBA Finals since I jinxed them by changing my pick.
I blame myself for LeBron James finally “getting it.” Instead of settling for jump shots or trying to appease Dwayne Wade, he recognized that he’s the best player in the sport and started to take over. He took the ball to the hoop on almost every single play and either made the basket or drew the foul. He used an effective low post game against the smaller James Harden or Thabo Sefolosha, which led to easy buckets or a wide open shot for a teammate when the double team came. He played outstanding defense on the best scorer in the game. He stepped up in the 4th quarter and didn’t change how he played like he did in last years Finals.
I blame myself for Shane Battier and Mike Miller draining three’s like they were Reggie Miller in his prime. I blame myself for Mario Chalmers thinking he was back in Kansas and playing the best basketball of his career even though he got yelled at every time down the court. I blame myself for Chris Bosh magically healing and the Heat not losing once he was back in the starting line up. I blame myself for Erik Spoelstra kind of sort of learning how to coach. I blame myself for Dwayne Wade accepting that he’s the second best of player on the team.
I blame myself for Kevin Durant not stepping up. It’s not like he was being guarded by one of the best on ball defenders in the sport. It’s not like he’s only 23 and playing in his first Finals. It’s not like he won’t learn from this, improve his game, and come back stronger next year. It’s not like playing in the Olympics this off-season is going to positively affect him because he’ll be around Kobe Bryant, LeBron, Chris Paul, etc… and he’ll see how hard those guys work and he’ll adopt that mentality.
I blame myself for Russell Westbrook playing “too out of control.” I blame myself for James Harden not providing the much needed spark off the bench and playing the worst basketball of his career. I blame myself for Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins being useless on offense and defense. I blame myself for Scott Brooks kind of sort of forgetting how to coach.
Don’t worry Thunder fans, next year I’ll make sure to stick with my pick and not jinx the team.
The Thunder will be back. People like to say, “you can never guarantee a trip back to the championship, just look at Dan Marino or Charles Barkley” but that was a different sport and a different era. In todays NBA, you can narrow it done to five team who will be in the Finals once the playoffs start. No other team in the league has a young core with legitimate playoff experience. The last three teams to win the NBA championship defeated the Thunder on their path to the title. This team has only lost to the best, they’ve endured the heartache of losing, I can guarantee they didn’t like it, and I can guarantee that they’re going to do something about it.
Durant is going to add something to his game. Whether it’s being more aggressive, getting better defensively, start using his length to go into the low post, or something else. Durant is a competitor who doesn’t get complacent like say Carmelo Anthony. He’ll work to improve and you’ll see a better Durant next season. Westbrook will learn how to control his aggression. I don’t want Westbrook to drastically change his game like so many others, but I do want him to play less out of control and start making better decisions. He started doing that a bit during this playoff run and he’ll continue to learn for what he did right and he’ll correct his mistakes. Harden and Ibaka won’t be as nervous the next time around and one would think that they won’t play as bad as they did in this years Finals.
I expect General Manager Sam Presti to improve the team next season. Even though they have the 28th pick in the draft, their scouting department has a history of finding gems and taking the right guy for the team. There are also some viable options in free agency that they can bring in to help out the bench. Presti is a very creative GM who will take the necessary steps to improving the team, so don’t rule out him making a “out of the box” idea to take the team to the next level. Plus the Thunder will be getting back Eric Maynor, who may not have the experience of Derek Fisher, but is a better player at this point in their careers.
Oklahoma City has become a place to play for a lot of players thanks to a winning atmosphere and a fan friendly environment. Because of that, a lot of guys, especially older players, will be willing to take less money because they know that they’ll be welcome with open arms and that it’s a great chance to win a ring.
I officially jumped on the bandwagon late this season and feel like I cost the team. I’m all in for next year. My KD IV’s have arrived and I’ll be wearing them for years. I got a Thunder shirt that I’ll wear proudly for years as well. If it’s cool for white guys to wear basketball jerseys, maybe I’ll buy a Durant jersey sometime next year.
I’m ready to Thunder Up in 2012-2013.