But the routine takes on a different meaning for the Thunder.
"It helps you just to know that no matter how bad this losing streak is or how many losses we have, guys are always still encouraging us and greeting us before we take the court,” said Kevin Durant. "Even though it’s something small, that helps.”
The origins of the hug, Durant said, date back to when Desmond Mason delivered a heartfelt speech during a players-only meeting immediately following the team’s 25-point road loss to Philadelphia. Mason scolded his younger teammates for sitting quietly on the bench after good plays.
The bench soon became more animated during runs, and over time the Thunder began expressing the enthusiasm before tip-off.
It started with players giving each other five just prior to the game. Some players added new wrinkles to form a more complex handshake. Then came the hug.
"It’s almost like baseball,” said veteran Joe Smith, who is credited for starting the many oddities and who the starters are last to hug before the game. "You see in baseball dugouts they’ve got all those fives and things like that. It’s almost like that, just something that everybody’s used to doing with each other.”