The Oklahoma City Thunder was watching one of its own on Monday night as Kevin Ollie guided his Connecticut Huskies to the national championship.
Ollie played one season with the Thunder back in 2009-10. It was one of his 11 NBA stops over the course of his 13-year playing career. He has been credited by many, including Kevin Durant, for changing the culture of the Thunder.
“It was an unbelievable feeling for me,” Durant said of watching Ollie and the Huskies win the championship. “I felt like I was a part of the team. With just having some UConn guys on the team and having KO here for that year, I felt a part of it. And I seen the joy that he had on his face and on their team’s face … You could tell how hard they worked by just looking at their faces. It’s one of those feelings you want to be a part of. Hopefully we get there.”
The Thunder convened at the team hotel Monday night to watch the game. Three current Thunder players — Jeremy Lamb, Caron Butler and Hasheem Thabeet — played at UConn and have been vocal in their support of their alma mater.
“I’m so proud and happy for him,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Well-deserved and earned. He’s going to go down as one of the great stories in the NBA how he made it and had all the success he’s had through all the hard work that he’s put in. He’s a guy that every organization has been better as he has been through that organization.”
Brooks said Ollie helped him during his time in Oklahoma City by having a positive attitude and a strong work ethic that rubbed off on a young team.
“He’s a great example for a lot of players, and what he’s doing at that level as a coach doesn’t surprise me because I know the type of character that he brings to a team,” Brooks said. “I’m happy that he has gotten that opportunity and was able to win the championship. He’s a great example for not only young coaches, for all coaches. He does it the right way and he gives credit to all. And he understands that the group is the most important thing, not what he does but what the group does.”
THUNDER CLOSE TO FULL STRENGTH
For the first time since Feb. 20, the Thunder is expected to have its full complement of players available Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Thabo Sefolosha returned to the lineup Tuesday at Sacramento after a 17-game absence caused by a calf injury. Russell Westbrook (knee) and Kendrick Perkins (groin) will both play against the Clippers.
All that’s limiting the Thunder at this point is minute restrictions and Westbrook continuing to be held out of one game of back-to-backs. Brooks said Westbrook’s minute restriction has now been increased to 34 minutes, while the plan for now is to limit Sefolosha to about 15 minutes.
The Kings were without Isaiah Thomas (quad), Rudy Gay (back) and Reggie Evans (back) Tuesday due to injuries. … Butler extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one made 3-pointer to 14 games. … During a second-quarter timeout, a Kings fan won a Kia after hitting a halfcourt shot. … The Thunder is 7-6 on the second night of back-to-backs this season.