Kevin Durant, right, and the Thunder can clinch a spot in the NBA playoffs with a win tonight in Dallas. PHOTO BY JOHN CLANTON, THE OKLAHOMAN
The Spurs also improved by 35 wins in 1990, Robinson’s rookie season.
The help of similar greats such as Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Kareem Abdul- Jabbar and Dwyane Wade, have changed the direction of other franchises and ushered in single-season transformations.
The Thunder, meanwhile, has a starting five that is the same unit that ended the year last season. The only additions to the core have been rookies James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Eric Maynor.
It’s an attribute that suggests Oklahoma City is in store for long-term success.
"If we keep everybody together, and everybody continues to work hard on their individual game in the off-season, I think the best is yet to come for us,” Durant said.
History says the Thunder will indeed maintain its march toward the NBA’s mountaintop.
With Garnett and Allen still in the mix, the Celtics won 62 games last year and will win 50 games this season. The Spurs won four NBA championships since 1998 and have finished with fewer than 47 wins only once since Robinson’s rookie season. Since 2004-05, Nash’s first season, the Suns have averaged 54 wins. In 14 years starting with the 1979-80 season, Bird’s rookie year, the Celtics won three championships and averaged 57 wins.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks, though, knows nothing is promised.
"We’ll have the same mentality of getting better and believing in what we do,” Brooks said. "Just because we’ve had success doesn’t guarantee success in the future. We’ll have to continue to work on our staples — defending and playing together.”
Staff Writer Mike Baldwin contributed to this story.