Desmond Mason sat down with Russell Westbrook over lunch awhile back. Mason had a message for his rookie teammate. Don’t let losses roll off your back. "He can’t allow losing to be OK for him,” Mason said of Westbrook and the other baby Boomers who form the future of the Thunder franchise. "Losing can’t be a habit. Wins are very, very important. That’s something you definitely have to guard against.” So as this maiden Thunder season rolls toward a final victory total of 23 or 25, or wherever the train stops, don’t be sucked into the lottery game. You know what I’m talking about. The theory that defeat is fine, since every loss increases the odds of Oklahoma City landing hometown hero Blake Griffin, the runaway best player available in the 2009 NBA Draft. It’s only natural to check out the lottery standings, since the playoffs never were an issue for the Thunder. When OKC pulls a stunt like it did Tuesday night — winning at San Antonio — you check the standings and realize if the Thunder had minded its own business, this morning it would be tied for fourth place in the lottery standings. Instead, the Thunder is sixth. That’s a huge difference in lottery odds — 13.7 percent for fourth, 7.5 percent for sixth. But those odds are 13.7 and 7.5, not 83.7 and 77.5. And no matter what the odds, increasing them comes at a high cost. Losing is not easily shaken. Mason is exactly right; losing can become a habit. Check out Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. In two NBA seasons, their record is 41-115. That should concern general manager Sam Presti. That kind of losing can burden players. "Organizationally, we’re not happy with what our record is,” Presti said. "But we’re also focused on making improvements on a daily basis and putting in the work to do that.” Don’t let anyone fool you, every pro cares about winning. "We all naturally have that fight in us, or we wouldn’t be in the NBA to begin with,” said the Thunder’s Earl Watson. But defeat after defeat, season after season, can wear on a player, and one counter to that pain is to quit caring so much. That’s when the losing habit that Mason spoke of can take root. Building for the future is solid strategy. Playing young players. Resting injured players. But playing the lottery game is not building for the future. It’s fool’s gold. The Thunder is much better off winning than trying to pad its losing record. Winning always is the best medicine. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.
Thunder BLOG: P.J. Carlesimo Lands At TNT
Trail Blazers at Thunder
→When: 7 tonight →Where: Ford Center →TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma (Cox 37) →Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM Three things to know
→Portland has won four of its past five games. →The season series is split 1-1 with the final meeting on April 13 at Portland. →The Thunder has lost three straight games inside the Ford Center. Probable starters