If at any point over the past three seasons you've doubted the Thunder's chemistry and camaraderie, the events of last week should destroy all remaining disbelief.
Despite the NBA lockout threatening to postpone the regularly-scheduled start of training camp, 10 of the Thunder's projected 15-man roster got together for what became a voluntary minicamp.
It happened two weeks before camp is scheduled to start. It took place in Austin, Texas on the campus of the University of Texas. It lasted four days.
Without a single coach, front-office or support staff member permitted to be in attendance because of lockout rules, two-thirds of the roster traveled to Texas to play pickup and, as the Thunder is fond of saying, ‘Get better every day.'
No other team has shown that level of commitment this summer.
According to the Twitter account of forward Nick Collison, veteran guard Royal Ivey organized the meet up. Both Ivey and Kevin Durant are Texas alums who return to Austin to work out for stretches each summer. Together, they tag-teamed last week as hosts to their teammates.
Ivey, Durant and Collison were joined by James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Nazr Mohammed, Eric Maynor, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and rookie Reggie Jackson.
Of the five who were absent, Serge Ibaka is competing overseas, Thabo Sefolosha resides in his native Switzerland in the offseason and Byron Mullens was busy, well, enjoying his newlywed status. Nate Robinson and Kendrick Perkins also were not in attendance.
While unsubstantiated reports of a rift between Westbrook and Perkins lingered as the headline on the popular rumor-based website Hoopshype.com on Saturday, the Thunder's voluntary minicamp failed to receive a single mention. But quietly, taking place in Austin, according to Mohammed, were ‘The best pickup games in America.'
The Thunder crew even got a cameo by San Antonio's Tim Duncan, a four-time champion, three-time Finals MVP, two-time league MVP and 13-time All-Star. Former All-Star and champion Michael Finley also made an appearance.
Think Durant & Co. learned a thing or two from them?
Think at some point over those four days, without a coach in sight, the Thunder got better?
Without a few abbreviated Twitter messages, however, no one would have ever known Thunder players were assembling in Texas. Even with them, few seem to grasp just how significant of a development it is.
For fans, knowledge of such gatherings by the Thunder can spark emotions of joy and pain. Joy because it serves as confirmation that the team's commitment is real, while also amplifying the anticipation for next season because this team really could be Finals bound. But the pain comes in when, once again, you're forced to come back to reality and accept that there might not be a 2011-12 NBA season at all.
Should the spats and penny-pinching pan out, though, the Thunder will be ready. The roster's college-like camaraderie served it well as it marched from a 23-win team to a Western Conference finalist, and it could be what gives it a leg up whenever the games start up again.
This, more than anything, is why folks near and far love the Thunder.
This, more than anything, is why the Thunder is creeping closer to a championship.