Scott Brooks recently was asked whether his Thunder needs a rival.
The coach assured he already has one.
â€œRight now, my rivalry is playing against my son,â€ Brooks said. â€œI'm undefeated and I want to continue that streak. He's 14. I should have at least a couple of more years.â€
By the time Brooks' son, Chance, finally stuns his dad, maybe the Thunder will have developed a rival. For now, Brooks' backyard is as close as anyone associated with the Thunder has come to bad blood.
But as Dallas comes to Oklahoma City Arena for the final time this season tonight to face the Thunder, the sight of the Mavs' royal and navy blue road jerseys will cause some to wonder when the Thunder will find a rival and whether the Mavericks are it.
â€œThey're so close that would be the logical choice,â€ Brooks said, â€œBut until you really face them and have a lot of heartbreak against them in playoff environments it's hard to say that there is a rivalry.â€
Dallas has dealt Oklahoma City enough regular-season setbacks. The Thunder is 3-5 against the Mavs. Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki, meanwhile, has blossomed into the quintessential villain.
In eight career games against the Thunder, Nowitzki has averaged 33.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals. Nowitzki has shot 59 percent from the field and 40 percent from the 3-point line. And he's made 76 of 82 free throws (92.7 percent).
â€œI don't think geography does it alone, though,â€ said Thunder forward Nick Collison.
Collison spent his first five seasons in Seattle and took part in the â€œI-5â€ rivalry between the SuperSonics and Portland Trail Blazers. Collison said he remembers those games having more of a rivalry feel.
â€œWe always had good crowds for those games,â€ Collison said. â€œI think in those cities the fans really feel it because they have more history than the players do.â€
So does the Thunder and Oklahoma City need a rival?
Having one could boost fan interest even further and turn regular season games against a particular opponent into playoff-like atmospheres. But the Thunder hasn't had an issue with interest. OKC has sold out 13 of its 16 home games this season.
Collison, though, admitted rivalries are equally fun for the players. But of the Thunder's nine-man rotation, six players have less than four years of experience.
â€œThese guys are so new to the league.â€ Brooks said, â€œThey just want to get better and play basketball.â€
Someday, a real rival will reveal itself, whether its Nowitzki's Mavs or Deron Williams' Utah Jazz.
â€œWe haven't been around long enough, and we haven't had enough battles,â€ Collison said. â€œHopefully with a few more playoff runs there will be that team that we continue to run into.â€
That day might not be far off.
If the playoffs started today, the Thunder's opening round draw would be the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers â€” the same team that ousted OKC from its first-ever playoff appearance in the first round last spring.
Wouldn't be a bad rival.
Thunder vs. Mavericks
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Oklahoma City Arena.
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD Ch. 722)
Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
Dallas has won 16 of its past 17 games.
The Mavs defeated the Thunder, 111-103, on Nov. 24 inside Oklahoma City Arena.
Dallas is a league-best 10-1 on the road. The Mavs' lone road loss was a two-point defeat to New Orleans on Nov. 17.
Pos., Player, Ht., Pts., Reb., Ast
G, Russell Westbrook, 6-3, 22.7, 4.9, 8.1
G, Thabo Sefolosha, 6-7, 6.3, 5.4, 1.6
F, Kevin Durant, 6-9, 28.1, 6.6, 3.1
F, Jeff Green, 6-9, 16.8, 6.1, 2.2
C, Nenad Krstic, 7-0, 7.8, 4.7, 0.4
G, Jason Kidd, 6-4, 7.9, 4.3, 8.8
G, DeShawn Stevenson, 6-5, 5.7, 1.2, 1.2
F, Caron Butler, 6-7, 14.6, 4.2, 1.7
F, Dirk Nowitzki, 7-0, 24.5, 7.6, 2.4
C, Tyson Chandler, 7-1, 8.8, 9.0, 0.4