A New #35 For Thunder
By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
I'll admit it was a bit jarring. Seeing someone wearing #35 back on the Thunder practice floor, shooting free throws, running drills, chatting up teammates.
But guard P.J. Dozier, who will spend some time on the Thunder roster and most of his time on the OKC Blue roster in the G-League, wasn't thinking about the last guy to wear #35 in Thunder blue when he chose that number.
He was thinking about family.
"My second cousin, Reggie Lewis, he used to play for the Boston Celtics. It wasn't anything other than that."
Lewis was an All-Star with the Celtics then tragically died of a heart attack in 1993 at the startlingly young age of 27.
"I honestly didn't even think twice about it," Dozier said when reporters asked him about his number of choice.
"I had it in preseason at Dallas," he pointed out. Dozier was a Mavs training camp signee after playing for the Lakers in Summer League and going undrafted out of South Carolina.
"I just saw (the number) was open and I just took advantage of it."
Dozier hadn't been born yet when Lewis died but just knowing a player of that caliber was in his family made an impression on Dozier.
"Just seeing someone in your family do what he did, to open up those doors and make it possible that I could have this dream one day to be able to say that I'm playing in the NBA."
Dozier is one of the new "2-way" players being allowed by the NBA this season. He will play most of his games with the Blue but could be up with the Thunder for as many as 45 days. Most of that time would be practice days because as a third point guard (barring injuries) he won't get much playing time.
Except for the number he chose Dozier's signing would have gone unnoticed around the NBA and as a side note to Thunder stories here in Oklahoma City.
But moments after media members (including me) tweeted out photos of Dozier in his new Thunder 35 jersey came a reaction from the camp of the guy who used to wear the number.
Rich Kleiman, Kevin Durant's agent and business partner for certain ventures, re-tweeted a photo of Dozier and his 35 jersey with the comment "All Class."
An apparent slap at the Thunder for allowing the number to be worn by someone else.
The reaction from Thunder fans back at Kleiman was just as swift.
Tyler Beets (@TylerBeets1) wrote "Do snakes shed their skin bc it's so thin?"
Julian Thompson (@jbug_) replied "Just like kd has soooo much "class" dogging his former teammates on a burner account."
You would think Kleiman (and Durant) would have better things to do than monitor what numbers the Thunder are giving out.
And remember, most of the time P.J. Dozier won't be sporting it in packed NBA arenas in front of national TV audiences, the Thunder figuratively putting it right in Durant's face night after night.
He'll be wearing it in front of sparse crowds, unseen by the national networks as he works hard to make his full time NBA dream come true while at the same time trying to honor a member of his family...not thumb his nose at a guy who loved wearing the same number in Oklahoma City so much he left.