Kevin Durant played knockout — that shooting survivor game — with some of his lucky campers Thursday at Heritage Hall.
Not long after the sun set on his camp, the NBA announced its lockout.
From knockout to lockout to, wipeout? We all now go on vigil hoping the coming NBA season isn't torpedoed by owners anxious to be saved from themselves.
If the threat of labor strife has you down, here's a theory that might lift Oklahoma spirits. The Thunder should fare very well, from a basketball sense, in the lockout.
The lockout shutters team facilities. Players are banished from the premises; nba.com can't even show their likenesses in photo or video. NBATV is showing wall-to-wall WNBA stuff for several days, followed by repeats of wall-to-wall dunk contests from pre-1995, which will contain no active players.
In such a cold war, players have to fend for themselves. A team of youngsters would seem in danger of shiftlessness.
I would argue not so with the Thunder. So would Durant.
“I'm looking forward to just keep getting better as an individual and with my team,” Durant said.
But with the ballplayers scattered to the wind, how can the Thunder improve as a team?
“I think the worst thing we could do was be scattered,” Durant said. “We're going to try to stick together and get as much work in as possible. Work on things we need to work on as a team ... we're going to do a great job coming back in shape. And knowing our schemes and our plans to get better.”
Seems like a tall order. Durant's from D.C., has a home in Miami for leisure and likes to hang out in Austintatious, Texas.
Russell Westbrook is an LA guy. Nick Collison still lives in Seattle in the off-season. Kendrick Perkins is all about Houston and Beaumont, and I have no plans to tell him not to be. Serge Ibaka travels the seas as his popularity soars.
So how do you get these guys together? A couple of ways.
One, most of them are unmarried. Most of them are free to do whatever they want. Just because you're an NBA stud doesn't mean you still don't have to run stuff past your wife. This summer, being single is a definite advantage for a ballplayer.
Two, while the Thunder core is a bunch of 21- and 22-year-olds, the Boomers have veterans that the kids listen to. Collison, Nazr Mohammed, Royal Ivey.
“Nick and Nazr and Royal, guys like that, they do a great job communicating with everybody throughout the whole summer, kind of locking down locations for us to work out together,” Durant said.
There's the real shine to this Thunder team. The roster is set. Everybody is under contract except Daequan Cook, and who among us believes Daequan won't sign on as soon as he's allowed?
Few NBA teams have such a non-makeover. And the Thunder won't in the future. But this off-season is unique. The Thunder of last season will be the Thunder of next season, with the addition of Reggie Jackson, and Mister October will be pulled along to whatever port the vets announce.
That's what made the signing of Mohammed so important this week. The only possible roster gap was filled.
“Nazr is a consummate professional,” Durant said. “He handles himself very well on and off the floor. He does a great job encouraging everybody. He's somebody I've been lobbying for.”
I like that. Durant in on roster discussions. I like that a lot.
“Once he called me and said he was coming back, I was very excited,” Durant said.
The only thing missing would be a coach. And frankly, if the Thunder prepared for the lockout correctly, that could be accounted for.
Why couldn't Scotty Brooks have given one of his vets a name or two of coaches not employed by an organization but who would be willing to work with 10 or 12 Boomers periodically during the lockout? A coach who, before the lockout, had a few conversations with Foreman Scotty about points of emphasis for his Thunder pups.
I'm sure that's playing fast and loose with some lockout rules, and I'm also sure Mark Cuban or George Karl or some of the league's other savvy minds have orchestrated something similar. Hey, maybe that's why Adrian Dantley quit the Nuggets.
Anyway, there is every reason for the Thunder to be ahead of the curve. Intact roster. Veterans brought in not so much for their talent, but their leadership. Young, unencumbered players, who seem to want nothing more than to hang out together in a gymnasium.
So long as the lockout doesn't become wipeout, the Thunder should be fine.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. 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.