DALLAS — Heaven knows how many times we've heard coaches and players blurt out they're approaching things “one game at a time.” When it comes to what the Thunder is about to face, however, perhaps that's the best approach.
On Thursday afternoon, OKC embarked on the longest road trip in the franchise's five-year history — a six-game, 10-day venture against four projected playoffs teams and the NBA world champions from two years ago.
It begins Friday with a nationally televised (ESPN) 8:30 p.m. game at Dallas and that is followed by: a Sunday 7 p.m. game at Denver; a Tuesday 9:30 p.m. game at the Los Angeles Clippers; a Wednesday 9:30 p.m. game at Golden State; a 9 p.m. game next Friday at Sacramento; and concludes with a 2:30 p.m. game Jan. 27 at the Los Angeles Lakers.
To approach such a gauntlet in its entirety could easily prove too daunting, which is why the “one day at a time'' cliché might actually be beneficial here.
“You really have to focus on one game at a time, especially in the Western Conference,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “You have so many good teams, if you look at our (January) schedule as a whole, it can become overwhelming at times. That's why I've never talked to the team much about our schedule, unless I have to so we can all plan ahead at certain times.”
All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook pleaded ignorance to what lies ahead.
“Honestly, I don't even know who we play, or in what order,” Westbrook said. “I know we go to Dallas and that's it. I don't even know what's after that. You start looking at the games ahead and you start losing track on the games at hand.”
You can bet Westbrook, who played collegiately at UCLA and was raised in nearby Hawthorne, knows full well he returns to his old stomping grounds not once, but twice in a five-day span.
Should Thunder players look at the entire road trip and slowly try to chip away at it when possible?
“No, no, no,” starting guard Thabo Sefelosha said. “We're going to try to do our best and win each one of them. It's definitely just one game after the next. We can't think too much ahead.”
Reserve center Hasheem Thabeet correctly shared the upcoming order of games. How does he study the schedule throughout the season?
“That next opponent,” Thabeet said.
“That's it,” Thabeet said. “We know who we play on what day, but we can't worry about that until it's our next game.”
The Thunder is 12-5 on the road this season and has played the second-fewest away games behind Chicago (16). OKC has held its own at home with a 19-3 (. 864) mark at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
In January, the Thunder will play 11 of its 16 games on the road.
“We wanted to take care of home, knowing we only had a few games at the crib this month,” three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant said.
OKC won't arrive home until around 11 p.m. on Jan. 27, which would have been roughly seven hours later had the road finale against the Lakers been scheduled to tip off at 9:30 p.m. rather than 2:30.
“It's definitely long, and my wife is going to enjoy that,” Brooks joked about the road trip. “But I think our players will be able to manage, because they play well and they stay sharp on the road.”
The Thunder's next home game won't be until Jan. 31 when it plays the Memphis Grizzlies.
The longest road trip in franchise history is followed by a game against the rough and tumble Grizzlies? For now, there's certainly no need to think that far ahead.