Winning a championship in the NBA is all about timing.
Remember that lockout-shortened 2011-12 season? Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook won 47 games and shot down Dallas, the Lakers and San Antonio in the playoffs before losing to Miami’s Big Three in the NBA Finals. They came up short, but everyone thought the tandem’s success was just the tip of the iceberg. Both players were on their way to legendary careers and very few teams had two young players of that caliber.
Even after losing third leg, James Harden, who moved to Houston and blossomed into an elite stat-stuffer, the consensus was that Westbrook and Durant were a cut above the rest. They were good money to complete the championship task the following season.
The multi-faceted Durant, the last No.1 pick in the history of the Seattle Supersonics in 2007, has delivered as a lethal four-time scoring champ. When the team relocated to OKC in 2008 and selected barn-burning, five-time NBA All-Star Russell Westbrook out of UCLA, the young gunners overcame egos, Hollywood hype, hating opinions, divisive media and the NBA’s crushing demands together to advance to the franchise’s first playoff appearance in 2009-10.
The following season, they went to the Western Conference Finals and the year after that they reached the NBA Finals. The natural progression of an OKC Dynasty was taking form.
In the 2012-2013 season, the Thunder finished the year with a 60–22 record and entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Despite Miami’s three max-money honeys, NBA Nation anticipated another Big Three vs. The Deadly Duo Finals and a lot of cats had their paper on the younger OKC squad.
As fate and misfortune would have it, Westbrook tore his meniscus in the first round of the playoffs against the Houston Rockets and missed the remainder of the postseason.
Durant turned up his scoring, averaging a career-high 30.8 points per game throughout the playoffs, but Oklahoma City was eventually eliminated in the second round by the Memphis Grizzlies. OKC's c'hip dreams were shattered in unforeseen fashion and it sparked a chain reaction of imbalances that has plagued the franchise ever since.
Nobody could have predicted the myriad injuries both players would endure over the next three seasons, Westbrook's meteoric rise as a one-man-wrecking crew or that 2016 would probably be the last time we would witness these two supreme ballers on the court together as teammates.
Westbrook, a veteran of eight NBA campaigns, is entering free agency and will be a blazing hot commodity. Durant will have played 10 seasons when he hits the open market in 2017. OKC knows they will probably lose both of them to larger markets, so for all intents and purposes, this is the final season for the Wonder Twins. This also signifies the beginning of a dark and dreary era for OKC fans. Remember post-LeBron Cleveland? It was The Apocalypse and nobody in the state of Oklahoma wants to think about 2018.
The hour glass has a couple grains of sand left, so the time for OKC is now.
Golden State is the favorite to win its second-consecutive c’hip, but a healthy Westbrook and Durant have been changing the narrative a bit and are looking like a twosome worthy of title talk. Durant is filling it up as usual to a tune of 27.7 ppg and Westbrook is leading the NBA in double-doubles, averaging over 10 assists and 24 points per game.
The Thunder are third in the Western Conference this season after failing to qualify for the playoffs last season as Durant battled a slew of foot and ankle injuries and Westbrook emerged as a Top 5 NBA baller,
OKC fans are banking on the fact that both of these players are healthy and understand that this is probably their last rodeo together. Not sure if that will be enough to upset Golden State in the Western Conference Finals, but OKC is the only other team with two of the top eight players in the NBA on the same squad. If they can finally balance the art of the waltz with their steady dose of Delo Shuffle, then maybe they can do something special this season on the way out.