For the Thunder's entire Oklahoma City existence, up until this season, George Karl has coached a rival team.
But this year, Karl is in the analyst chair, working as part of ESPN's NBA team. And because of that, he can give a more candid opinion on teams across the league.
So far, he's high on the Thunder.
“Quietly, they are under the radar,” Karl said during a recent ESPN segment. “I don't know what it was, maybe (Russell) Westbrook's injury. Early in the season, everybody kind of wrote them off a little bit.”
“They are on a mission, they're focused,” Karl continued. “Two years ago, they got to the Finals, maybe not mature enough to win the Finals. Now they know they want to get back.”
Karl identified the development of Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson as two of the key reasons for the improvement.
“Ibaka might be an All-Star this year,” Karl said. “How they fill the hole that Harden (left), I think it's going to be Ibaka and Reggie Jackson and both of them are having very good seasons. And their bench is finding a different personality along the way.”
“This is a team that has a mission, has a confidence and has a direction and focus that is underrated or at least (overlooked) by the NBA people today.”
REGGIE'S SHOE INCIDENT
With 10 minutes left in Tuesday's game against Denver, Reggie Jackson sliced through the lane for a silky layup. But in the process, his shoe fell off, forcing him to quickly foul in order to get it back on.
After the foul, Scott Brooks immediately pulled Jackson from the game.
“His shoe wasn't ready and I didn't want to foul again because he was getting his shoe,” Brooks explained. “So I wanted Russell to sub in. Then the momentum of the game, I just never got him back.”
Sitting on eight points, Jackson didn't reenter until there was less than a minute left, in garbage time, with no chance to extend his double-digit point streak to 10 games.
Tough break. Blame it on the kicks.
Denver guard Ty Lawson on the number of successful out of bounds and out of timeout plays the Thunder pulled off on Tuesday: "Scott Brooks has plays hidden up his sleeve that he pulled out today...We didn't prepare for them and they were good plays."
STAT OF THE DAY
Kevin Durant has 12 games of 30-plus points this season. No other NBA player has more than seven.