OKC Feeling Mavs Past Pain
They’ll keep banging on the door. They’ll keep talking about next year. They’ll keep talking about how the window is ajar, about how their supportive fan base will understand, about how they will re-load and not rebuild, about how they have a championship-caliber core and a transcendent star as their axis.
They are the Thunder and this is the way they will talk after having made the 2012 NBA Finals and lost, and now having fallen short in the ensuing two seasons. If you are cup-full, that is steady and high-level contention. If you are cup-empty, that is a “decline.”
Remember when that was the Mavs debate?
After 2012, everyone assumed Oklahoma City simply needed to develop that maturity and that scar tissue; it was literally assumed the Durant-led Thunder would eventually win a title. That’s not really how this works, though. OKC, as brilliant as it is, has spent the last four years not being as good as the Heat, the Spurs and … the Mavs. Dallas spent what seemed at the time like an eternity climbing toward the top. In the 2006 NBA Finals, there the Mavs were … almost.
Many wrongly assumed that Dallas would climb that mountain again and again, and eventually plant a flag atop it. It took another seeming eternity for the assumption to come true with the 2011 title. How many teams in the impossibly tough Western Conference have, over the last decade-plus, been designated as “the next big thing,” the “young team that will make frequent climbs up the mountain,” the club for which excellence is inevitable?
The Malone/Stockton Jazz. Elton Brand’s Clippers. Chris Webber’s Kings. Garnett’s Wolves. Nash’s Suns. T-Mac’s Rockets. Melo’s Nuggets. Paul’s Hornets. Baron’s Warriors. Aldridge’s Blazers. Randolph’s Grizzlies.
That’s too many climbers. Not enough mountains. Not enough “inevitables.” “We’re definitely not going to give up,” said KD sidekick Russell Westbrook after OKC was ousted Saturday in the Conference Finals by the Spurs. “Come back next year, and be better and be stronger, be wiser, and we’re coming back.”
That’s what they all say. Every year. But to actually do it — and win a title — you have to be Mavs-like. And as history is showing us, that is more difficult than most think.