In the first month of his career, Kevin Durant showed flashes of his eventual greatness, piling up points at typically unseen levels for a rookie.
But through those early spurts was a trail lined with struggles. He shot sub-40 percent in his first 16 games, committed turnovers at a high rate and went through an understandable adjustment to the amped-up speed.
“The first year, Kevin's rookie year in Seattle, it was a tough year,” Nick Collison said. “He was trying to find his way.”
Russell Westbrook's first few years in Oklahoma City followed a similar script. James Harden's, much of the same.
One night during the 2008-09 season, Westbrook scored 30 points against the Heat, flashing his unbelievable athleticism and potential. Two days later against the Warriors, he went 3-for-13 and committed as many turnovers as he had points.
“That's just part of sport,” coach Scott Brooks said. “You're not going to have everybody playing at the highest level at all times.”
But that's particularly applicable to young and inexperienced players.
And it's certainly something to keep in mind as the Thunder gets set to embark on Year 6 of the Oklahoma City experience.
The Thunder features two under-22 players — Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams — who have never played a meaningful professional minute and another — Reggie Jackson — who has never been in an NBA rotation on opening night.
Unlike Durant, Westbrook and Harden, none of them were picked in the top-5 of the NBA Draft or are ever expected to ascend to top-10 player in the league status.
But all hold crucial keys to the team's current and future outlook.
And the Thunder's message remains clear: Bear with them through the ups and downs, because there are sure to be both.
“I think that's what everyone on the outside should have with those guys is patience,” Durant said. “Just knowing this is their first go-around on this."
At times, Lamb's going to have trouble finding his shot, firing up a 2-for-12 shooting night. Other days, he may pop off for 22 on 9-of-16. We know because he did both in the preseason.
Jackson will have big scoring games and big turnover games. Adams could make a huge impact one night and not play the next.
It's part of early life in the NBA.
“The game is faster,” Brooks said, noting the 11-second difference between the college and pro shot clock. “You have to change ends of the court faster. Those are the things I will be patient with.”
But there are plenty of positives to be gained from a lineup filled with youth.
The biggest: Growth.
“Hopefully the team we are tomorrow,” Collison said, “will be different from the one we are at the end of the season.”
Barring injury, it's a safe bet to assume Lamb, Jackson and Adams will only get better as the season wears on. Because, well, that's what young players do as the experience piles up.
OKC has a half-decade full of examples to back up that theory.
It hopes Jackson, Lamb and Adams can follow that same path.