HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — In a half season filled with salacious story lines, we’d almost forgotten about those young cats in Oklahoma City.
Sure, they were the cover boys on all the preseason magazines and everyone’s trendy pick to challenge the Lakers in the Western Conference. But when the season started, their elders in San Antonio and Dallas stole their thunder.
Seeing Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and the boys go toe-to-toe with the Magic last night, reminded us just how mighty the Thunder can be. Whatever they lack in experience, they seem to make up for in energy, effort, determination and chemistry. Not even a dominant showing from Dwight Howard could stop the Thunder last night.
Winners of four straight games, the Thunder sit fourth in the Western Conference, behind the Mavericks, Lakers and Spurs. That top spot might be a couple of years away. But they are heading in that direction. Everyone can see that.
“Obviously, we couldn’t stop them,” said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who also complained about his team’s defensive effort. “There wasn’t one possession all night that I liked our defense on. Not one.”
Even the Thunder’s biggest critics, like the Prime Minister, are having a hard time dismissing them these days.
The only person the Thunder have left to win over is TNT’s Charles Barkley, and they’d like to convince him in person. After all, he did promise to visit, as the Oklahoman’s Jenni Carlson reminds us:
Come to Oklahoma, Sir Charles. See our city for yourself. Stroll around Bricktown. See the Memorial. Go to a game at the Ford Center.
And you agreed to visit. NEWS 9 anchor Kelly Ogle made the official pitch at the All-Star Game in Houston. He’d been critical of you in one of his “My Two Cents” commentaries, but he brought a gift basket and an invitation to come to Oklahoma.
“I’m going to come there,” you said at the time. “I’ve got to look at the schedule, see when (the Hornets) are there for a weekend.”
Did we mention it’s been five years since then?
I mean, we were willing to give you a pass back then. Right at the end of the season, you were elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and with that came a lot of responsibilities. Press conferences. Appearances.
But a TNT spokesman told us then that you planned to visit early the next season.
We know that you’re aware we have an NBA team of our own now, too. You were talking about it less than a week ago.
“(The Thunder) had success (last season), and when you have success, you assume you’ve made it,” you said during halftime of TNT broadcast. “What people don’t understand is that once you’re successful, it gets harder. From a talent standpoint, they are one of the best teams in the league, but they haven’t taken that next step.
“They are living on reputation.”
You know about having a reputation, don’t you, Chuck? People always say that you’re as much a comedian as a commentator, that you’re more rabble rouser than deep thinker. But you never pull punches, never shy away from speaking your mind.
You’re always honest.
So, I know you’ll appreciate this truth — you said you’d come to Oklahoma City five years ago and you still haven’t.
We love it.
Calling out the Chuckster like that is sure to stir up the masses for the Thunder’s next TNT showcase, that would be Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day game against the Lakers.