Two words could hover over the Thunder's 2010-11 season like a dark cloud:
It's the first time Oklahoma City has been faced with two of the NBA's most worrisome words. Fourth-year forward Jeff Green has involuntarily become the pioneer, as it appears likely he will play this year without a contract extension.
The team has until Nov. 1 to come to terms on a new deal. But if no agreement is reached, Green will become a restricted free agent next summer.
Many players throughout NBA history have spoiled promising seasons through selfish play while seeking new contracts. But the Thunder's coaching staff and front office views Green as more of a consummate teammate than a team cancer.
"Hasn't even crossed my mind," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "There's no doubt that some players I played with or that I coached, that is the agenda. But with Jeff, that has not even crossed my mind."
Brooks was asked why not. What makes Green so different?
"Maybe because I know him," Brooks said. "I know who he was when he came into the league, and he hasn't changed. He still works every day in practice. He still tries to get better. He still tries to make the right play. He's not forcing shots. He's not taking bad shots... He hasn't forced anything in camp. He's a pro and he likes being on this team."
As an assistant during Green's rookie year in 2007-08, Brooks was assigned to Green to oversee his development.
Brooks had to work out Green every day. They spent time together, drilling before and after practice. Brooks got to know Green on a more personal level.
"There's no doubt I have a special bond with all the guys," Brooks said. "But Jeff, I like him. I like what he's about. I like what he does for us. He sacrifices. And he has to do that. We have some good players on our team. But not everybody can be the leading scorer. Not everybody can be the high assist man... Jeff is a teammate that guys like because they know that he brings effort every night and he's consistent and he doesn't change his habits."