In the last week, James Harden has appeared on Jim Rome is Burning, Kevin Durant taped a nationally televised sit-down interview with Magic Johnson and Russell Westbrook’s eye-popping performances enticed a prominent NBA writer to Oklahoma City for an upcoming piece in ESPN The Magazine.
The Oklahoma City Thunder has arrived on the NBA map, garnering attention and acclaim unlike anything the franchise has experienced since relocating from Seattle nearly two years ago. Evolving into the talk of the league is an honor, a testament to the Thunder’s thrilling turnaround. But with increased publicity comes perhaps the Thunder’s greatest challenge yet. Dealing with it. To this point, we’ve seen and heard Thunder players trumpet how tight they are. And there is no reason to not believe they don’t share a genuine fondness of one another. But now, the Thunder is entering a natural phase in which individual accolades can become the focus and me-first priorities typically take precedence. At every stop on the most recent three-game road trip, Durant has been flooded with questions about his present and his future: whether he wants to flee to a flashier market, if winning this year’s scoring title is on his list of goals and what he thinks about signing a long-term contract extension this summer. With so much young talent, the Thunder must now make it a point to not allow similar questions and concerns to become a distraction or, worst, disband the group’s chemistry. By all accounts Westbrook, Harden and Jeff Green, who, by the way, is also up for an extension this summer, each packs promise in his own right. And Serge Ibaka is beginning to make a case for being thrown into that mix. "It’s going to be challenging to deal with,” Durant admitted. "But I think we all have good personalities here. We all know where we came from, so we’re going to continue to be humble.