Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Good news, Thunder done tanking (right?)
The players made it clear on Tuesday, next season's all about winning, going back to the playoffs (unless …)
The Oklahoma City Thunder are done tanking.
Come next season, it will be about winning.
Don’t believe me, listen to the players.
At Thunder exit interviews Tuesday, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, whose game reached a new level the latter part of the season — 30.4 points, 7.3 assists and 5.2 rebounds over 13 post All-Star break contests, shooting 54.2 precent and 39.3 percent from distance, all but the 3 percentage career-highs by wide margins had they been for the season — hinted at it.
“We talk all the time and every time we talk I get a little bit more excited,” he said, the “We” being him, general manager Sam Presti and coach Mark Daigneault. “Yeah, like I said before, I’m excited for the future of this team.”
We heard from Josh Giddey, who may wind up rookie of the year after being plucked sixth in the draft out of Melbourne, Australia, who’s yet to turn 20 years old, who dropped another clue.
“I’ve got a good relationship with Sam and Mark and … they’re pretty open with us. There’s no secrets within our organization,” he said. “I think the direction we’re headed is really positive … I think everyone wants to win and the sooner that can start the better.”
So the conversations Presti and Daigneault are having with Gilgeous-Alexander they’re having with everybody. No secrets.
Does it get any clearer?
If you can’t trust a 19-year-old Australian with state secrets, who can you?
Because Lu Dort had news, too.
You remember Dort, the man who was shutting James Harden down two seasons ago, still on a two-way contract, when Harden was in shape and still trying in Houston. He’s still that guy, but he’s added to his repertoire, averaging 17.2 points, shooting better than 40 percent for the first time, netting 27 or more points in eight of 51 games.
Goals for next season? Dort was asked.
“Oh, definitely make it to the playoffs. That’s got to be the goal,” he said. “I feel like we’re going to be a team that’s going to shock a lot of people.”
There you have it.
Put a fork in putting a fork in the Thunder.
They’re going to the playoffs.
SGA hinted at it.
Giddey said there’s no secrets.
Dort said that’s the goal, no ifs, ands or buts.
He didn’t say “I think we’ll be allowed to shock some people,” but that he believes they will. And if you’re not going to believe that, believe Kenrich Williams, who continues to offer good minutes off the bench.
“Things will be different next year,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll be different … We want to win games. I’m not just speaking for myself, I’m speaking for the whole team.”
It’s not often a fourth-year undrafted player out of TCU gets to speak for the whole team, but in Oklahoma City, that makes him a veteran, while his age, 27, makes him ancient, so how can you doubt that guy?
No more tanking.
Write it down.
Giddey, I’m sure, responding to a later question, was just covering all the bases when asked about making the playoffs next year.
“I’m confident in the guys we have to make that happen,” he said. “But as I said, we just want to be better from what we were this year going into next year. The playoffs are obviously the goal for every team, but it’s not the be-all, end-all. As long as we’re progressing and heading in that direction, that all we can really ask for.”
A 19-year-old rookie shouldn’t be presumptuous, should he? He’s got to defer. So sure, no harm done. Just covering the bases.
For that matter, the coach can’t be giving things away, can he? He can’t be where Dort is, or where Williams is.
No, Daigneault was right to play it cool.
“I try not to have too many expectations, but I will say I’m excited about seeing what our team looks like when we come in the gym in September,” he said.
Close to the vest.
But he’s optimistic.
He has good reason to be.
“I think the level of organizational alignment, I think, is powerful and a competitive advantage from Mr. Bennett, to our front office, to our coaching staff, to our players, our extended staff, our fans,” Daigneault said. “It just seems like everybody’s kind of pulling in the right direction.”
The level of organizational align … wait, what?
What the hell is that?
It’s hoops man, not a power-point.
“We’re just going to continue to let things unfold, let the team declare itself, solve problems in real time,” Daigneault said. “The best thing about those guys is they’re high level competitors, they’re high level workers and they want to get it right.”
So what you’re saying is …
“We’re going to focus on the development of … our environment, our program, our identity and our individual players, and then let them run and see where that takes us,” Daigneault said. “The speed of the timeline of that is what we’re less concerned with. We’re more concerned with not skipping steps and we’re more concerned with the quality of that and making sure that the soil is fertile moving forward.”
If only Mark Daigneault, head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, had his own role to play, too? Should somebody remind him he’s the coach?
Christ, is this team ever going to win again? Does it even want to?
Forget Giddey and SGA’s caution.
Cue the bumper stickers.
“Oh, definitely make it to the playoffs”
— Lu Dort
What might they say?
“In Lu, we trust.”