An estimated 500 fans greeted the Oklahoma City Thunder at a private hanger at Will Rogers World Airport just after 1 a.m. Thursday following its season-ending loss in Game 5 at Dallas against the Mavericks.
It was the team's largest airport arrival party to date. For nearly 10 minutes, fans screamed their appreciation for players and also coach Scott Brooks, who was greeted with chants of "Scot-ty! Scot-ty!"
"Our fans are the best," Brooks said. "Last night, that was overwhelming. That's not common. We have a great situation here. The players love it. There's a definite connection on and off the court with our fans. It was amazing. It was really cool that they came out and supported our guys."
Asked what he thought of the gathering, All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook shook his head and said: "Oh, man, how great this city is, regardless of what's going on, they always lift you up. That's the best thing about Oklahoma. The people definitely showed that last night when we got back. We were down (emotionally), and they were screaming and clapping for us. It definitely shows the commitment they have for us."
Thunder players had exit interviews with Brooks and general manager Sam Presti on Thursday at the team's practice facility. All-Star Kevin Durant was asked if Presti said anything to him about whether or not he would try to keep the team intact for as long as possible.
"Nah, he said he was going to trade three or four of us," Durant joked, drawing laughter from reporters. "No, the great thing about Sam is he lets us do our job, and we let him do his. He puts the team together, and he does a great job. I don't know what you think, but I think he does a very good job of putting this team together. He doesn't interfere with us running pick-and-rolls or thinks we should take shots here or there. He lets us play. We don't question what he does."
CUBAN PRAISES HARDEN ...
On the court after Game 5, Dallas owner Mark Cuban greeted Harden and shared a hug. "He just said, 'You had a great season and you're a great player. Good luck with the rest of your career,' " Harden said.
... AND CONGRATS OKC
Cuban sent out a congratulatory tweet to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.
Cuban applauded both Oklahoma City and the Thunder franchise via his Twitter account for making it to the Western Conference Finals and being classy.
"Congrats to OKC Thunder on a great season," Cuban wrote. "Great Team. First Class Organization. First Class City. First Class Ownership.
During the regular season, Brooks at times would use a smaller lineup to play catch-up. In Game 5, he opted to go "small" lineup of Nick Collison, Eric Maynor, Durant, James Harden and Westbrook to begin the fourth quarter while trying to maintain its four-point lead against the Mavs.
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