It remains to be seen if free agents Derek Fisher, Kevin Martin and Ronnie Brewer will return, but this season left an impression on how they felt about the team's fan support:
Fisher: “Coming here last year I learned first hand how special the connection between the community and city and the people and the team, that relationship … When you see the fans out there at 3 in the morning when you get back from a road game, as happy for you advancing out of the first round as winning the championship. Last year was uncommon territory. I had never seen that before, but this year I just wasn't surprised. I will never get used to it, but learning what I learned about the people here, it wasn't a surprise to see it this year. It's just who they are and still one of the best places to play in the league.”
Martin: “From the outside looking in, I knew it was a great place. But actually when I got here, it turned out to be a special place, with how the fans are with the players; how the teammates were with one another; how the coaches went about their business on the court; for the players, making sure we had everything in front of us to be successful. That's something I learned not to take for granted because I've never been in a situation like this. All in all, it was quite enjoyable.”
Brewer: “I always tell people on this team, and I've been blessed to go to different teams — Utah, Chicago — that it's a blessing to be around friends and family, but it's a blessing to be able to play in arenas and atmospheres as the fans that follow the Thunder. … There are good teams in the NBA that won't have sellout games, they don't have fans that cheer for us as loud as they do for us here. I think that's one of the best experiences I've had. No matter who it is in the game, what they're doing, everybody is cheering for them and wants well for them. That was a great feeling, that even though I came halfway through the season, everybody I came across through the city and the arena wished me well and wanted me to succeed and this team to succeed.”
Thunder starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha injured his left wrist during Game 4 at Memphis and got it taped during the game. He wore a black brace in Game 5 at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday and was still wearing the brace during his exit interview session on Thursday.
“I just fell,” Sefolosha explained. “I am not sure exactly how I fell. I didn't look back at exactly what happened during that play but I fell on it and it was really painful. I think it is a bruised bone or something like that.
“It will need a little bit of attention but nothing too much of a concern like surgery or anything like that. It was a bruise, pretty painful, but other than that nothing that is going to be a concern in the long-term.”
As a team, OKC finished 5-6 during the postseason, but how do you accurately gauge individual playoff performances when a key ingredient like Russell Westbrook was injured, forcing the team to make adjustments across the board?
Will this year's postseason performances affect a player's standing on the team — good or bad?
“Let's face it, Russell's really good,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He's not only one of the best point guards, he's one of the best players in the league. … We are a much better team (with Westbrook), there's no ands, ifs, buts about that. We're not an excuse team, either. I like the fact that we didn't make an excuse as a team.
“We have to evaluate what we've done all season long. Russell's a big part of what we do. He helps all of our players. But the thing that we have, we have a good mix of players that have good roles on our team that play them at a high level. … Just go down the line. Everybody on our team has a good role, an important role, that helps us win games and puts us in position to win.”
IMPORTANCE OF RUSS
Westbrook is a three-time All-Star, but did his own teammates fully realize how important he was to the team?
“Yeah, I never took Russ for granted,” center Kendrick Perkins said. “I always seen what he brought to the table. He puts so much pressure on a team it's ridiculous. He's the most athletic guy to ever play that position and what he brings to the table is crazy. I mean, he's a top-five player. (Can) you name five players that's better than Russ in the NBA right now? You can't. He should be on the first team All-NBA Team. What he average, 23 (points), five (rebounds) and eight (assists)? Something crazy. Those some great numbers.”
Sefolosha also said he was fully aware of Westbrook's importance.
“Yeah, of course,” Sefolosha said. “He is an incredible player and an incredible athlete. Being a point guard and everything that he brings to the team, you can never replace that with just a few days and not having him on the floor is tough.”
No OKC player placed the Memphis series loss solely on Westbrook's absence, however.
“We don't want to put everything on the injury,” Martin said, “but for it to happen, at the time it happened, to the type of player that it happened to, we really lost a vision when we got the news that morning before Game 3 (at Houston). It was an adjustment period where we were just out there, we were out there playing basketball. We lost the guy that has the keys to our car.”
Perkins on how Serge Ibaka responded in the playoffs: “I thought Serge really grew up. It was a few times he could have hung his head but he didn't. He just kept pushing. He put a lot of pressure on himself to start making shots, which I thought kind of hurt him in a way, but that just tells you how much he wanted to win, how much he wanted to do well.”