Cracking Thunder

By Randy Renner

Having lived in Oklahoma or Texas my entire life I know the sounds of thunder.

Sometimes it's a low rumble off in the distance carried along by the wind. As the storm gets closer the thunder gets louder, sharper. More like the sound of a strike when you're bowling.

And then when a bolt of lightning strikes so close to you it lights up a dark house the thunder cracks.

I'm beginning to wonder now if we're also beginning to hear and maybe see some cracks in our own Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team.

The pressure of a season of high expectations, NBA Championship or bust, type expectations may be starting to weigh heavy on the shoulders of a team full of young, talented veterans. Perhaps starting to chip away and crack the foundations that have been built.

Russell Westbrook has said he thinks the media are trying to tear the team apart, yet it was Westbrook's own brother Ray who tweeted during Thursday night's Game 3 that the Thunder "need a new coach ASAP like rocky!!!!!"

Then late Thursday night, early Friday morning Ray Westbrook tweeted "that's how I feel, if you don't like it, don't follow me."

By later in the day Friday the tweets had been taken down from his Twitter timeline and he had even apologized and Ray's brother Russ told reporters, "I took care of that, we don't do business like that."

Westbrook also said, "Me and Scotty have a great relationship and I've never once mentioned I want Scotty to leave here since I been here. We've created a bond."

Who knows what Russ and Ray talk about but you'd expect the subject of the head coach might have come up a time or two.

As far as the media trying to undermine the team, here's how Russ put it, "I feel like the media tries to pull us apart. When nobody is getting their shots you all try to find a reason in between all of us. You try to find who's fault it is. One person didn't lose we all lost."

And when Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman tried to tell Westbrook that he and other reporters simply report what happened and try to explain where things went right and where they went wrong, Westbrook dismissed the argument with the old 'you guys don't play the game routine.'

That's fine but even a guy like me who only played organized basketball in high school (and not very well at that) can figure out you should try to get the ball to the open man and you might wanna guard an opponent who's got a hot hand.

When the Thunder have lost, or blown a big lead but rallied back to win, we usually hear the same reasons for it. 'We relaxed, we didn't hit shots, we'll learn from this one.'

Trouble is we have seen some of those same things happen over and over again.

It makes you wonder like Berry Tramel wrote in The Oklahoman this morning if the players are still listening to what Brooks is saying or have they tuned him out?

Brooks has said consistently his team needs to move the ball better, pass up a good shot for a great shot.

Serge Ibaka has had his best offensive season, he's shooting 60 percent in this series while Westbrook and Kevin Durant have combined to shoot 41 percent.

In the fourth quarters and overtime periods of the last two games Ibaka has taken a grand total of one shot. Westbrook has taken 25 and Kevin Durant 21. Hero Ball a lot of people have called it. The two superstars trying to save the team and the championship dreams of a city and its fans.

When asked about shot distribution, Westbrook who as the point guard is largely in charge of that said, "Our offense is not built around Serge. Our offense is built around No. 35, Kevin Durant," Westbrook said. "Don't try to pull us apart. We're all in this together. Serge isn't on a separate team, Kevin is not on a separate team, I'm not on a separate team."

Team is the key word. The Thunder have relied on Ibaka and others to take and make critical shots when defenses load up against Durant and or Westbrook.

Late in the last two games Batman and Robin have tried to save the City on their own.

It's time to get back to team basketball, or those cracks are going to get louder and the gaps are going to get wider and that promising season with the high expectations will end with a thud and much sooner than anyone would have expected.