In sport, you are what your record says you are, and the Thunder is 10-2 right now.
That equates to a 55-11 record in a 66-game season with a winning percentage of .833, which would rank fifth on the NBA's all-time list.
A 55-27 record was quite an achievement last season for OKC. Imagine reaching the same victory total in 16 fewer games.
OK, everyone. Calm down. We're just crunching some early numbers here. Don't go planning a downtown parade for late June just yet.
Thunder players and coaches seem pleased to this point, and should be considering they had 12 games in the first 18 days. Early success doesn't guarantee continued success, however.
The 149-day lockout cut training camps in half, which cut preparation in half and made the evaluation process of newcomers almost nonexistent for some. What is normally early October on the NBA calendar suddenly became early December.
Q: “Hey, coach. How do you like your new player?”
A: “Haven't seen him play yet. Ask me in March.”
The Thunder is 5-1 both home and away. Six victories have been against teams in last year's playoffs.
OKC also is enduring a gut-wrenching, season-ending knee injury to Eric Maynor, one of the league's best backup point guards.
Is OKC achieving its goal of “getting better every day,” as everyone in Thunderwear incessantly preaches after every game and practice?
Are these early returns simply because of young legs and having retained the top 10-12 players from last year's roster?
How much of this good fortune is actually fortunate timing, playing teams while they're not at full strength? (See list.)
Heck, the Thunder has such good mojo right now it doesn't even have to play today (Friday the 13th).
Does the team's record match the results? OKC is winning, but is the Thunder getting better?
“I think we're getting better,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “It's easy to look that we have a good record, but I see improvements. We've done some good things down the stretch of games, winning close ball games. We've executed when we've needed to. Our defense has been solid pretty much throughout the 48-minute game where last year it was only stretches of good defense.
“Still, we're not where we need to be, and we have to keep improving. We have a long season to go.”
Is the Thunder better than a year ago after 12 games?
Brooks paused and whispered, “Good question.”
“I would say we're further along this year because even though we had a short training camp, guys came back in great shape so we didn't have to worry about the conditioning,” Brooks said. “We could focus on what we do and putting our system in.”
Statistically, results are mixed comparing last season to this season through the first dozen games. (See chart.)
The Thunder is up in field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, rebounds, assists, blocked shots and turnovers, and down in free-throw percentage, scoring average and steals. Thunder opponents are up in free-throw percentage, rebounds, steals and blocks, and down in field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, scoring, assists and turnovers.
Comparisons between last year and this year are flawed because Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic were traded from OKC to Boston, while Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed joined the Thunder.
Actually, comparing 2011-12 to any NBA season other than 1998-99 is ambiguous at best.
Two-time scoring champ Kevin Durant and defensive ace Thabo Sefolosha see a common flaw with OKC teams the past two years – slow starts in games.
“We still can get a lot better at opening up games stronger,” Durant said. “I think we're playing harder on the defensive end, we're passing the basketball and we're having fun out there. I think that's the most important thing.”
Sefolosha said the Thunder remains a work in progress.
“At times we are repeating our mistakes a little bit too much – just the way we start the game sometimes,” Sefolosha said. “You know we will make those kind of mistakes, but mentally we have to get a little bit better improving game after game.”
Asked to compare last year to this year through a dozen games, Durant smiled and said: “I really can't remember last year. That's a long time ago.”
Sure seems that way.
MISSING IN ACTION
The following players were missing when their teams faced the Thunder this season:
W-Orlando (12/25): None
W-Minnesota (12/26): Brad Miller (knee); Martell Webster (back)
W-Memphis (12/28): Mike Conley (sprained ankle 24 seconds into game); Darrell Arthur (Achilles tendon); Xavier Henry (ankle)
W-Dallas (12/29): None
W-Phoenix (12/31): Michael Redd (conditioning)
L-Dallas (1/2): None
L-Portland (1/3): Greg Oden (knee)
W-Houston (1/6): Kyle Lowry (foot); Courtney Lee (calf)
W-Houston (1/7): Kyle Lowry (foot); Courtney Lee (calf)
W-San Antonio (1/8): Manu Ginobili (broken left hand)
W-Memphis (1/10): Zach Randolph (knee); Darrell Arthur (Achilles tendon); Hamed Haddadi (personal)
W-New Orleans (1/11): Eric Gordon (bruised knee); Trevor Ariza (groin strain); Jason Smith (grandmother's funeral); Xavier Henry (ankle)
New York (1/14): Baron Davis (back)