“It’s tough,” he said. “It’s like being on a standby flight.”
Waiting…and waiting…and waiting, for an opportunity that might never come.
“Having the guys that I have around all the time and the way we talk, the way we interact with each other, that kept me in a straight line,” Thabeet said of his teammates and coaches. “I could’ve been very upset about it and just not (done) anything. I know why I’m here. They’re not doing to me a favor. I work for everything every day.”
Thabeet arrived at the Thunder’s practice facility between 8:30 and 9 a.m. throughout the year for 10 a.m. practices. Sessions would end around noon, but Thabeet wouldn’t leave until 3 each day.
“I’m putting that time in,” Thabeet said. “Again, it’s a tough situation, but professionalism, this is my job.”
Thabeet’s professional approach paid off multiple times this season. After sitting out the first six games of the season, Thabeet moved into second on the depth chart after Perkins missed two games because of the loss of his grandfather. Thabeet responded with an encouraging four-point, five-rebound performance in 14 minutes off the bench in a road game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Six of Thabeet’s next seven appearances came in games decided by at least 15 points. He sat for 44 games before receiving his next meaningful minutes. They came in a home game against Memphis on Feb. 28. Perkins was injured, and the Thunder needed assistance against Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Thabeet answered the call with two points, four rebounds, one block and some terrific post defense in a six-point win.
Similar efforts from Thabeet were seen in sparing minutes when Perkins missed 17 straight games with a groin injury.
Will it be enough to keep Thabeet in town?
He hopes so.
“It’s been a great two years of my life being out here in Oklahoma,” Thabeet said. “It’s been a great run. Everybody is young. Everybody comes to compete. Everybody loves to joke around. That’s what made us come even closer together every day. We hang out with each other, go to each other’s houses. We know where everybody lives and that’s been a great key for us.
“We have a great group. These guys have been great for me, when I was playing last year, when I’m not playing. To me, this is a family.”