There's that culture talk. Which is all well and good. But when the Thunder has hit rough times, Durant or Westbrook or James Harden would take the ball and do something magical, and all would be well.
Now the Thunder star list has been reduced from three in the 2012 playoffs to one in these playoffs. Now, that culture talk better be the truth, or the Thunder is headed for an early exit.
Durant called Westbrook “probably the best point guard in the league” and said the upcoming stretch appears to be Durant's biggest challenge as a pro.
“But I have faith in myself and this team that I can go out there and lead us,” Durant said.
NBA history is rife with teams that have faced similar obstacles. The Lakers lost Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for Game 6 of the NBA Finals, and rookie Magic Johnson produced an epic game to bring LA the title. The Bulls lost Derrick Rose to a knee injury in the 2012 first round and lost to the lowly 76ers. And there are dozes of tales between those extremes.
This is where rock solid franchises endure. They keep playing defense, they find good shots, they even change their style if necessary, and by all means it's necessary with Westbrook gone. No one like him on this roster or any other.
“Our team as a whole, we've got a resilient group of guys,” said Presti, who as Thunder president and general manager created the culture. “We've got a lot of character in that locker room and a group that enjoys playing together and has been through some adversities over the last several years that they've been together.”
Durant and Collison know about adversity. That 20-62 season in Seattle. The 3-29 start in Oklahoma City. Since then, adversity has been measured in millimeters. Losing Westbrook in the middle of the playoffs is measured by light years.
Which is why while this is a time for Durant and Jackson and Kevin Martin and Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka to show their mettle, nothing can shine as bright as the Thunder Way.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.