Thabo Sefolosha scored 14 points in the season opener against Utah, flashing an array of off-the-dribble moves.
The immediate thought: He's in a contract year, he's expanding his game and becoming more aggressive. Look out.
Then, over the next month, Sefolsha fell into a deep offensive slump, shooting nearly career-low percentages and looking tentative on open threes.
The prevailing thought: He's in a contract year, he's pressing a bit too much and doesn't look like the same player.
In reality, we'll likely never know if the thought of his financial future had any effect on his play. But whatever's been wrong, the Thunder hope it's in the early stages of being cured, starting with Sefolosha's strong performance in Oklahoma City's 107-95 win over Chicago on Thursday night.
“I don't want to think too much about anything,” Sefolosha said. “I just want to play my game. I felt like I played well tonight.”
Sefolosha scored 10 points in 21 minutes against the Bulls, his first game in double-digits since that October opener in Utah. Plus, the defensive specialist added five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.
“He does so many things for us,” Nick Collison said. “Even if he's not making shots, he still does a ton for us.”
But when Sefolosha is making shots, it provides the Thunder with a different and dangerous dynamic.
It's something they had all last year, when Sefolosha made a career-high 108 threes on a career-best 42 percent shooting from deep.
But this season, he's shooting only 27 percent from three, far below his career average of 35 percent.
And he's only made 11 3-pointers the entire year. His lone make on Thursday was only his second of December.
“It's coming back,” Sefolosha said confidently. “I'm shooting extremely well, I'm confident in my shot, it's just not falling for me right now. But again, I just don't want to think too much about it.”
Defensively, with his wingspan and versatility, Sefolosha will always impact the game. But last season, his improved offense boosted his value and importance.
Sefolosha and the Thunder hope Thursday was the first step on the road back to that form.