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OKC Thunder: That lovable team is bringing some sandpaper to the table

COMMENTARY -- This magnificent ballteam is as villain-worthy as any in the NBA. The lovable Thunder has become hateable, too.
by Berry Tramel Modified: March 4, 2013 at 7:06 am •  Published: March 3, 2013


photo - Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) tangle in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 3, 2013. The Thunder won 108-104. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) tangle in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 3, 2013. The Thunder won 108-104. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Serge Ibaka took a swipe at Blake Griffin's family jewels Sunday and all kinds of things changed.

One, the ballgame. Ibaka went all Gorgeous George, only this time the refs saw the flagrant foul, imperiling a Thunder victory.

Two, this rivalry. The Clippers and Thunder weren't sitting around singing campfire songs even before the South Central assault. This was a nasty game, and a potential West semifinal series might require football pads.

And finally, gone surely is the last national remnant of America thinking of the Thunder as boy scouts. This magnificent ballteam is as villain-worthy as any in the NBA. Heat. Lakers. Celtics. Clippers. The lovable Thunder has become hateable, too.

I know, we all still like to think of the Thunder as baby Boomers. Guys just off the train, ultra-talented but ultra-innocent, walking around the big city with wallets in their front pockets, saying gee whiz and aw shucks.

Maybe that's what the Thunder was three years ago. Not today.

This Thunder team is more biker bar than church choir. This Thunder snarls and glares. Sharpens its spikes and leads with its head. This Thunder team douses its food with garlic:

* Kendrick Perkins' hockey-like enforcing; nothing cuddly about Gran Torino.

* Russell Westbrook's brooding; Westbrook has replaced LeBron as the most psychologically analyzed player in the NBA.

* Kevin Durant's 12 technical fouls, second-most in the league. The Thunder moans and complains with the best of 'em.

* And now Ibaka's tomahawk chop, hitting Griffin where it hurts, which is frowned upon by the Marquess of Queensbury or even in most alley fights. I assume it's a no-no in The Congo, too.

Ibaka is headed for a one-game suspension, almost certainly Tuesday night against the Lakers. The NBA office is open Mondays. Not even Thunder diehards can defend Ibaka's punch.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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