Sift through all the statistics you can stomach, basic or advanced. We'd give you 50 guesses, and chances are you still wouldn't stumble upon the most shocking stat of the season for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Here's a clue. The number is two.
OK, ready for the answer?
That's how many practices the Thunder has had since opening the season on Christmas. And, amazingly, No. 2 came only on Friday.
Such is life in a lockout-shortened season in which the schedule has been condensed and the games have been compressed. In its first 12 games, the Thunder has played four back-to-backs and its lone back-to-back-to-back.
Over these first three weeks, the Thunder has had only six days between games. Only two of those dates have not followed back-to-back sets, which NBA teams rarely hitch a practice session to. One of those two dates, New Year's Day, was reserved for a travel day.
The only two practices thus far have been Jan. 5, the day before the start of the team's three-games-in-three-nights test, and Friday in preparation for Saturday night's game against New York.
“Looking at it, we knew we were going to play a lot of games in not a lot of nights,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “But now, it seems like there's a game, a day off, kind of a normal schedule.”
Ah, normalcy. The Thunder will welcome it back, at least for the time being, Saturday.
Starting with the Knicks, the Thunder's next nine games will be stand-alone contests unattached to another on an ensuing day. The upcoming slate even includes an uncharacteristically convenient two days off in between games against Washington and New Jersey, as well as two days between Golden State and the L.A. Clippers.
Assuming the Thunder utilizes each day rather than reserve any off days for travel, the team could have nine practice sessions over the upcoming stretch.
“It is nice having some days off between games,” Brooks said. “But it's all going to come back and we're going to have a bunch of games before the All-Star break where we're going to have a bunch of back-to-back games.”
The Thunder can worry about crossing that bridge when it gets to it.
For now, the next 2 1/2 weeks will serve as a nice respite.
“It feels good,” said guard Daequan Cook. “Just looking at the schedule coming up, we're going to have a lot of days off or days just to come in and get shots up, especially on the road, which is going to be very important.”
Oklahoma City just aced a five-games-in-six-nights challenge, going 5-0 and winning by an average margin of nine points in the toughest stretch it'll see this season. That test was connected to a larger seven-games-in-10-days hurdle.
“One of the things that's tough when you play so many games is just mentally being ready,” Brooks said. “I think your body can handle it, but sometimes mentally you're just tired. And give our guys credit. For five games in six nights, they brought some good energy physically, and their mental toughness was there every game.”
If only from that standpoint, Thunder players can now exhale for a day.
“You don't have to be at that high every night because it's hard to get there.” Brooks said. “Our guys have done a great job with that. But now they can have a day's rest to recharge their batteries and come back the next game.”
But you didn't actually think Brooks would let his players recharge during the upcoming off days, did you?
“No,” Brooks said. “We push them. But they like to be pushed. That's why I enjoy coaching this group. They love the challenge.”
The practice days should now only benefit a Thunder team that was tied for the NBA's best record at 10-2 entering Friday night's games. Brooks said he will use the sessions to shore up individual areas, as well as team philosophies. Brooks singled out defensive rotations and offensive spacing and ball movement.
“We're off to a good start. We can't hide that fact,” Brooks said. “But we still have to find ways to get better, and we usually do that as a team very well.”