I have found the greatest picture in Thunder history
2:00 AM EST on January 19, 2012
Monday, as part of the NBA's Martin Luther King Day extravaganza, the Thunder played a game in Boston against the storied Celtics. The game was a symbolic changing of the guard with Boston's aging, accomplished roster squaring off against the up-and-coming talent wearing OKC jerseys.
With a 97-88 road victory for Oklahoma City, it was clear that the young legs of their core talent gave them advantage over the geezers playing for the Celtics during this condensed season. While the proven veterans spent the lockout drinking Kool-Aid and working to make the lockout last as long as possible, Thunder players came into camp in shape after figuring out ways to play basketball without NBA sponsorship. With a record of 12-2 (compared to Boston--who was expected to be a title contender--at 4-8) the upstarts are making a claim at league supremacy.
Of course, most outside observers want to give all the credit to the Thunder big three of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, but that isn't really the case. Those guys are dominating, yes, but the role players coming off the bench are just as big of a factor. For instance, Oklahoma City's stars aren't carrying nearly the load as Boston's big three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen because they can relax on the bench without the team falling apart. So, not only do they have the advantage of youth and superior preparation, but they also have depth of talent on their side. Nick Collison, Daequan Cook, and Harden can slide into the line up without a noticeable drop off.
Then, when those bench players are still on the sidelines, they can be even more valuable by creating images like this:
You know how one of the most endearing things about college basketball is the way the bench behaves during March Madness? That generally comes from a tight-knit group of players living the college life coupled with the emotion of high stakes competition. Oklahoma City's bench is acting in the same manner minus the college atmosphere and high stakes. This picture came during an early season game. After the game ended, 4/5ths of the season still remained. Yet these guys reacted to the events on the floor like scrubs on a 15 seed who just hit a dagger to knock off Duke.
One can only surmise that this team is pretty close and enjoying their success.
Now for a breakdown of how these players express their enthusiasm.
Maynor has the exact look of disbelief that just about every Thunder fan had at that moment. Russell Westbrook had just nailed two consecutive three-point daggers--including one he took that every Westbrook hater was dying to see airball--sandwiched between two Thabo Sefolosha triples. He looks like someone who just witnessed Joleen Chaney and Emily Sutton making out on top of the bar at Brix. But what really makes his reaction stand out is that he is, well, standing. This is a guy who blew out his knee less than two weeks ago, but was so immersed in the action despite wearing street clothes that he risked a great deal of pain.
The rookie point guard looks like he's miming a roll of the dice at a craps table. That's actually pretty symbolic of the moment. If the team is going to rely on Westbrook and Sefolosha to bomb from outside to close out quality opponents for the rest of the season, it will be a horrible gamble.
I'm less concerned that K.D.'s back up looks like he's pretending to hold a joint with his right hand than I am seriously curious about what the gesture he's making with his left hand means.
Every successful group of jersey wearing cheerleaders needs a goofy white guy. Aldrich is performing his role flawlessly. I'm pretty sure that's a crane kick.
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