In the first month of his career, Kevin Durant showed flashes of his eventual greatness, piling up points at typically unseen levels for a rookie.
But through those early spurts was a trail lined with struggles. He shot sub-40 percent in his first 16 games, committed turnovers at a high rate and went through an understandable adjustment to the amped-up speed.
“The first year, Kevin's rookie year in Seattle, it was a tough year,” Nick Collison said. “He was trying to find his way.”
Russell Westbrook's first few years in Oklahoma City followed a similar script. James Harden's, much of the same.
One night during the 2008-09 season, Westbrook scored 30 points against the Heat, flashing his unbelievable athleticism and potential. Two days later against the Warriors, he went 3-for-13 and committed as many turnovers as he had points.
“That's just part of sport,” coach Scott Brooks said. “You're not going to have everybody playing at the highest level at all times.”
But that's particularly applicable to young and inexperienced players.
And it's certainly something to keep in mind as the Thunder gets set to embark on Year 6 of the Oklahoma City experience.
The Thunder features two under-22 players — Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams — who have never played a meaningful professional minute and another — Reggie Jackson — who has never been in an NBA rotation on opening night.
Unlike Durant, Westbrook and Harden, none of them were picked in the top-5 of the NBA Draft or are ever expected to ascend to top-10 player in the league status.
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