Thus once the decision was made to trade Harden, this became a transition year. Win or lose, a transition year.
The trouble is, Thunder history and Thunder culture, limited though both are, do not cotton to defeat. Patience doesn't come easy to us, since we've never had to actually use it on the NBA stage. Oklahoma City had to wait one solitary season for a franchise — the year between the Hornets' departure and the Thunder's arrival — and one solitary season for a good team. Nobody in the NBA's crying a river for OKC.
And it doesn't help that the Thunder players aren't crazy about pacing, either. Westbrook plays every game like he's dribbling into a burning building, and Durant treats rest like it's punishment. He sat out 28 seconds of the Heat game — LeBron sat out eight minutes — and that only because Durant fouled out.
So when the Thunder loses, especially a marquee game like the Heat, especially a mental-barrier game like the Heat, it seems as if the Thunder has derailed.
But the truth is, Durant and Westbrook still are only 24. Serge Ibaka is 23. More help is on the way. The Thunder is ahead of schedule, not behind schedule, no matter what the scoreboard said when Miami was in town.
That's why the break came at a good time. To remind us, that every time we get impatient and think the Thunder can't scale a certain height, be it avoid 70 defeats in 2008-09 or compete with the Lakers in that 2010 playoff series or rally against the Spurs in the 2012 West finals, they remind us otherwise.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.