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NBA Finals: 'Thunder U' is wise beyond its years

The youngsters who are about to play for the NBA championship can mix fun with business.
By John Rohde Published: June 8, 2012

On more than a few occasions the past three seasons, the end of Thunder practice has been disrupted by laughter.

We're talking rip-roaring eruptions, where younger players collapse to the floor and finish on their backs, unable to contain their hilarity.

The primary culprits are guards Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Daequan Cook and Eric Maynor, who routinely engage in shooting contests whenever time permits.

No one is immune to these laughter meltdowns among those age 25 and younger, including Serge Ibaka and three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant, who has fallen to the floor a few times himself.

Westbrook routinely lets out a primal yell whenever he wins (or loses) a free-throw contest against a teammate, which has spurred similar celebrations from even some of the older players at the team's new practice facility.

Such merriment usually stems from a player's key miss under pressure and often is accompanied with some good old-fashioned verbal warfare.

Yup, this is “Thunder U.”

It's hard to fathom this group represents one half of this year's NBA Finals.

More than once, cackling in the background has interrupted post-practice interview sessions with Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who will pause, shake his head and whisper with a smile, “Thunder U.”

As the Thunder repeatedly has shown during this year's playoffs, the team's remarkable achievements have defied its youth.

OKC's starting lineup has an average age of 24.6, but the team is experienced far beyond its years.

Durant and Westbrook have started all 38 postseason games they've played. Ibaka has started 32 of his 38 playoff games. Thabo Sefolosha has started 38 of his 47 playoff games. Meanwhile, center Kendrick Perkins has started 94 of 100 career postseason games, is about to play in his third NBA Finals and won the 2008 world championship with Boston.

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