As the Thunder's most seasoned veteran, the only player in his 30s and the only roster member with more than six years of NBA service, Mo Peterson has quickly become the butt of jokes in the locker room and on the practice court.
â€œJames (Harden) said this is my 20th year in the league,â€ Peterson confessed. â€œHe teases me a little bit.â€
During a one-on-one drill Wednesday, Peterson put together a series of moves that took some time to develop but ended in a score nonetheless. Kevin Durant, with a wide-stretching smile, promptly declared, â€œThat's that old man game.â€
â€œI expect some of those jokes,â€ Peterson said.
But Peterson, 33, has acquired his share of wisdom in his â€œold age.â€ His most recent lesson, one he picked up at his last stop with New Orleans, is one in which his young teammates should find great value.
Peterson was the starting shooting guard for the Hornets team that took the league by storm in 2007-08, winning a franchise record 56 games and coming within a win of reaching the Western Conference Finals. The Hornets were projected to be on pace for a title but won seven fewer games the next season and were embarrassingly ousted from the playoffs in the first round by Denver. New Orleans is still trying to pick up the pieces.
â€œWe went from being the hunter to the hunted. We kind of snuck up on people,â€ Peterson said. â€œAnd last year, I don't think people expected Oklahoma to do what they did. (Going from) the hunter to the hunted, you're always going to have a target on your back. You're not going to be able to sneak up on anybody.
â€œAnd I think we learned a lesson about that when I was in New Orleans. Every team has injuries, so I'm not going to make that as an excuse. But that's something I can pass on to this team to always keep us hungry. Let them know that if they thought what we did last year was good, we can't be fat and sassy and get complacent.â€
How well the Thunder is able to focus following a small taste of success could be a defining key to this season.