The regular season is still two weeks away and already the Thunder has a must-win against the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday night.
Scoff if you want, but imagine the snickers if OKC — the league's latest darling and the defending Western Conference champion — lost to the franchise that last season set the record for the worst winning percentage in NBA history.
Tuesday's 7 p.m. contest marks the first time the Thunder has played at Chesapeake Energy Arena since losing Game 2 in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.
OKC's last victory came in Game 1 against the Heat on June 12. Since then, there's been nothing but losses for the locals, who for three straight regular seasons never lost more than three straight games.
The Thunder has lost six straight dating back to last postseason, and coach Scott Brooks seemed stunned when reminded of this.
“Wow … That's gonna be on the board (inside the locker room),” said a smiling Brooks, presumably joking.
The first four losses came against Miami in the NBA Final — which meant everything. The last two losses have come against Houston and Utah this preseason — which means nothing.
But losing, even in the preseason, is never a good thing. Brooks repeatedly has told his team that winning should always matter to the five guys on the court.
“No matter who we have on the floor, we're out there to win,” Brooks said. “We're out there to execute. You're out there to play for your teammates and play hard. That doesn't change, no matter who's on the floor.”
The 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers own the NBA's worst regular-season record of all-time at 9-73 (. 110).
The 2011-12 season was shortened to 66 games because of a lockout, which meant the Bobcats had to settle for the lowest winning percentage of all-time at 7-59 (. 106). Charlotte finished 39 games behind Miami in the Southeast Division.
Brooks has been a mad scientist all month, experimenting with multiple lineup combinations and Tuesday's exhibition will be no different.
However, if OKC truly possesses one of the league's deepest rosters, shouldn't that be more than good enough to beat the Bobcats no matter who is on the floor when the clock expires?
Although it would behoove OKC to win one for the home folks, Brooks said he will not take a win-at-all-costs approach to Tuesday's game.
If the game is still in doubt in the closing minutes, will three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant re-enter?
“No,” Brooks said.
Will OKC have any starters on the court at the end of the game?