A pivotal point in the Thunder's proverbial process has arrived this week and will be worth remembering once Oklahoma City begins competing for championships.
Over the next six days, out in scorching Las Vegas, three Thunder players will gain invaluable experience while training with the USA Basketball Men's National Team.
And over the next two months, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green could learn lessons that will shape the rest of their careers.
This week, Oklahoma City's trio will be competing against the best up-and-coming talent the NBA has to offer as the U.S. team prepares for the 2010 FIBA World Championship, which will be held in Istanbul, Turkey, from Aug. 28-Sept. 12.
As the only team with three players at this week's training camp, the Thunder's organization is expected to take center stage. And with all 12 gold medalists from the 2008 Olympics declining to participate because of contract matters, injuries or personal reasons, Durant seemingly will supplant LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade as the face of Team USA as it enters into international competition.
Durant already has been chosen by USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo as a member of the team that will compete in Turkey. If Westbrook and Green are able to make the cut and join their teammate, the international spotlight will shine bright on the city of Oklahoma City as well, delivering on all the "big-league city" promises that were made when city officials first pitched the idea of acquiring a permanent NBA franchise.
But in the short term, it's the development that is of utmost importance.
Of the current 21-man national team roster, only Chauncey Billups, Amar'e Stoudemire, Lamar Odom, Rajon Rondo, Andre Iguodala and Tyson Chandler have had more playoff success than the Thunder's trio. With Durant the most talented player on the team, he naturally will have to take on more of a leadership role, which will serve him well going forward in Oklahoma City.
Westbrook, meanwhile, will be competing against the likes of Rondo, Billups, Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry. It will make Westbrook an even better point guard when he returns in the fall.
And Green will be going against players such as Stoudemire, Odom, David Lee, Danny Granger, Rudy Gay, Gerald Wallace and Kevin Love.
It's also worth noting the team will be led by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who taught teamwork and got the most out of the 2008 stars.
This is a big week for the Thunder. It's not far-fetched to say the next six days could help instill some championship characteristics.