Our Oklahoma City Thunder has been anointed crown prince of the NBA. The future champs. Heirs to the throne of the Lakers, who have won six of the last 11 league titles.
Too much talent, too much smarts, too much grit for the scepter not to eventually pass to this team of wunderkinds.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Serge Ibaka and James Harden. Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha. A bunch of young legs and old souls is hard to beat when combined with basketball brilliance.
But as the Thunder embarks Sunday on Stage 2 of the 2011 playoffs against the suddenly vicious Grizzlies, a suggestion is in order.
Don't wait your turn, Thunder. Don't wait until the Lakers bequeath the crown. Snatch it from their heads, which of course also means taking out Memphis in this round.
I said it the February day the Thunder traded for Perkins, I say it again. The future is now.
The Thunder can win the 2011 NBA title.
Of course, everyone from Hubie Brown to Nazr Mohammed told me, whoa, boy, settle down.
“We're not thinking titles,” Mohammed, the 33-year-old Thunder sage, said Saturday. “All we're thinking about is Memphis tomorrow. You start putting the cart before the horse, you let your guard down.”
But the more Mohammed talked, the more he made my case. Which is this.
With Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder can score with anybody. With Perkins and Ibaka, the Thunder can protect the basket with anybody. With Harden and Nick Collison and Eric Maynor, the Thunder can go to its bench with anybody.
So the only thing missing from a title run would be maturity, which normally isn't found in 21- and 22-year-olds.
Except in this case it is.
Mohammed said his biggest surprise since coming from the Bobcats in February has been “the maturity of the youth. The maturity is unbelievable — 21-, 22-, 23-year-old guys, players who have huge roles, their maturity level, their attention to detail. I don't expect that out of 22-year-olds.”
The Thunder stands with any team in the league. The Spurs are gone. The Lakers and Mavs are old. The Celtics and Heat are adjusting to their rosters. The Bulls, well, the Bulls have a heck of a ballteam, but who was more impressive in Round 1, Chicago against the woeful Pacers or the Thunder against the feisty Nuggets?
Who knows if the Thunder's chance ever will be better? If in two years, Blake Griffin is a Laker and Dwight Howard a Celtic, will the Thunder still be the heir apparent?
We had a royal wedding the other day. I remember a royal wedding from 30 years ago, which was supposed to feature the future monarchs. But Lady Di never made it to queen, and Prince Charles is going to have to hurry. He's 62.
Don't wait, Thunder. There is nothing you need to win the title, “other than there are other good teams we have to play,” Collison pointed out. “We feel we have a chance to do well.”
Even Scotty Brooks, the master of saying absolutely nothing, admitted his team is capable of going all the way.
“Yeah,” Brooks said. “We know it's very difficult. But we know we have a good team that competes every night, that gives us a chance to win.
“We feel we're in it. We're good defensively. We're good in a lot of areas ... we're solid in a lot of areas it takes to win big, to win championships, in this league.”
Tomorrow is not promised. A wrenched knee. A soured attitude. A super-team elsewhere. Air can go out of the heir apparency.
Better to win it now, Thunder, for this reason. Because you can.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He 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. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.