The Oklahoma City Thunder doesn't have to leave town again until March 29, following its home game against Golden State.
By the time it boards a charter for Phoenix, here is what OKC possibly could have achieved:
* It could be riding a franchise-record 11-game winning streak.
* It could have clinched a playoff spot with nine games remaining.
* It could have reached the 50-win mark, matching last year's total.
* It could be 14-1 in March with one game left.
* It could be scaring the living daylights out of the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
Starting with Friday's 7 p.m. contest against Charlotte inside Oklahoma City Arena, the Thunder begins a six-game homestand, the longest in franchise history.
Making the home stand particularly appealing is the opponents' combined record of 167-240 (.410).
Four have losing records: Charlotte (28-39), Toronto (18-49), Minnesota (17-52) and Golden State (30-38). Utah (36-33) is teetering on playoff extinction, having lost 20 of its last 29. Portland (38-29) will be the most formidable visitor, and OKC is 2-0 against the Trail Blazers this season.
Tonight will be the Thunder's sixth consecutive game against an Eastern Conference opponent. OKC remains unscathed to this point at 5-0 and is 21-6 against the East this season.
Thanks to freshly acquired centers Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed, the use of multiple frontcourt combinations and more defensive pressure being applied on the perimeter, the Thunder has been transformed and is in the midst of its third five-game winning streak of the season..
Stretching the winning streak to 11 will be no easy feat, but the quest certainly seems reasonable given the circumstances. However, such futuristic matters never should be addressed with Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
OKC did not practice Thursday on the heels of Wednesday night's smothering 96-85 victory at Miami. Had Brooks been available for interviews, he no doubt would have bristled at any question looking past tonight's game against the Bobcats – and would expect his players to react the same.
Trouble is, the Thunder has looked too darn good lately to think only of Friday and not what lies ahead.
OKC clings to a 3½-game lead over Denver (41-27) for the top spot in the Northwest Division and the No. 4 seed in the West.
The Thunder also is just 3½ games behind the Mavericks and Lakers (both 48-20) for the No. 2 seed.
Before Perkins and Mohammed arrived with the Feb. 24 trade deadline, Thunder fans were looking in the rearview mirror to see who might be gaining.
Many of those fans are now staring straight ahead, anxious to pass the teams in front.
John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.
Bobcats at Thunder
When: 7 Friday night
Where: Oklahoma City Arena (18,203)
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD Ch. 722)
Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
* Former Thunder forward D.J. White, who was traded with Morris Peterson for center Nazr Mohammed, is averaging 20.7 minutes, 8.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 0.7 blocks for Charlotte.
* Former Oklahoma standout Eduardo Najera, 34, is in his 11th NBA season and the Bobcats are his sixth different team. He has 594 career games and has made 85 starts.
* In this year's previous meeting, OKC held the Bobcats to just three points in the first 9:09 of the final quarter and breezed to a 99-81 victory. Later that night, coach Larry Brown resigned.
x-blocks per game