Skip to content

Strain of change leading to concerns about Thunder chemistry

Nov 5, 2012, 1:04 PM EDT

Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant AP

It has been a strange thing to see — barking and bickering among the tight chemistry of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It’s come up every game so far this season, Darnell Maryberry of the Oklahoman described Sunday’s incident in a loss to the Hawks.

At the end of the first quarter, Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook had to be separated from exchanging words as they walked to the bench. It was a show of anger that surprisingly was also seen from the same two as they walked off the court at halftime Friday night.

In other moments Kevin Durant has barked at Serge Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka have pointed fingers.

It’s odd because it wasn’t something we saw the past few years as this team made its runs, eventually all the way to the NBA finals. Not that everything was puppy dogs and rainbows around the Thunder, but there was not a lot of public tension.

This isn’t just about James Harden being traded, although that certainly is part of it because it was a big change to the chemistry of the team. Harden had grown up with the Thunder. It was a blow to Durant and Westbrook.

But you can add to that change the strain of expectations. Oklahoma City is no longer the young underdogs everyone wants to see succeed — they are a team that has been to the NBA finals, a team people expect to return to the biggest NBA dance and win it this time.

A team that expects itself to succeed.

All that has led to some tension, some strain on the family feelings around the team.

But don’t expect this to be a long-term concern. Not with Durant and Westbrook in charge — there is no doubt whose team this is (and was even before Harden was sent away). That super duo is going to figure it out, the team will get over this bump.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks and the players there told Royce Young of Eye on Basketball not to worry.

“I’ve never once went into a practice or a game thinking ‘Oh my gosh, I’m really worried about our chemistry tonight,” Brooks said. “[Chemistry] was never a question. It really wasn’t. I think when you talk about chemistry with our group and if you question it, I don’t think you’ve been around our group as long as I have.”

“You can’t duplicate it,” Westbrook said of chemistry, “but we have a group of guys that have been here for a while. We’re switching the team up a little bit but every year we’ve had a different team and we’ve found a way to incorporate guys and make sure everybody knows what it takes for us to win. So I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”

It’s not. Perceived problems (or success) gets overblown the first couple weeks of a season (see Lakers for more info). Things find their level and even out, as will happen with the chemistry of the Thunder. They are figuring it out. They will get there and be who we expect as the season moves on.

Latest Posts
  1. ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: New York Knicks

    Sep 16, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Derek Fisher Derek Fisher

    Plenty of changes, but enough to make the playoffs?

  2. Report: Spurs open to signing-and-trading Aron Baynes

    Sep 16, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Patty Mills Foot Locker In Store Appearance Patty Mills Foot Locker In Store Appearance

    San Antonio already has 17 players, qualifying offer out to Baynes

  3. Klay Thompson’s agent: Thompson better two-way shooting guard than Kobe Bryant

    Sep 16, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers

    Bill Duffy: ‘Klay Thompson right now is the top two-way, two-guard in basketball’

  4. Deron Williams says after surgery his ankles feel the best they have in years

    Sep 16, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT

    Deron Williams AP

    Deron Williams opening the season healthy would be huge… but just the start of what they need from him.

  5. Clippers sign Australian forward Joe Ingles

    Sep 16, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    BASKET-EURL-BARCELONA-PANATHINAIKOS BASKET-EURL-BARCELONA-PANATHINAIKOS

    Ingles excelled in World Cup, completes dominoes set in motion by Jared Dudley trade

  6. Serbia holds impassioned celebration for World Cup silver medal

    Sep 16, 2014, 12:30 AM EDT

    2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup - Day Fourteen Getty Images

    You won’t see this for the Americans’ gold medal

  7. Report: Greg Oden’s drinking an issue during season, alleged domestic assault

    Sep 15, 2014, 10:40 PM EDT

    New details about incident in which he allegedly punched ex-girlfriend in the face

  8. Cavaliers work out Lou Amundson

    Sep 15, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v New Orleans Hornets Cleveland Cavaliers v New Orleans Hornets

    Amundson’s best days are behind him, but maybe he can find a niche in Cleveland

  9. Report: Wizards close to signing Damion James

    Sep 15, 2014, 7:55 PM EDT

    New Jersey Nets v Washington Wizards New Jersey Nets v Washington Wizards

    Washington building up competition for open 15th spot

  10. Wizards sign shooting guard Xavier Silas

    Sep 15, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    Xavier Silas Xavier Silas

    Silas appears to have real chance of making the team

  11. PBT Extra: What players looked good at World Cup?

    Sep 15, 2014, 4:26 PM EDT

    Derrick Rose stayed healthy but never shook the rust fully off his shot.

  12. Time for FIBA/NBA to adopt soccer model: Only one major tournament every four years

    Sep 15, 2014, 3:35 PM EDT

    James Harden James Harden

    Soccer already has the right model, it’s just going to be hard to get FIBA on board.

  13. Tobias Harris, eligible for contract extension, wants to stay with Magic

    Sep 15, 2014, 2:04 PM EDT

    David Lee, Tobias Harris David Lee, Tobias Harris

    Harris unsure whether Orlando will let him hit restricted free agency

  14. Blake Griffin doing slam poetry about tearaway pants? We got that. (VIDEO)

    Sep 15, 2014, 1:25 PM EDT

    Take Flight Media Event 2013 Getty Images

    Blake Griffin has done some brilliant marketing campaigns.

  15. Mavericks sign Dominican guard Victor Liz

    Sep 15, 2014, 12:48 PM EDT

    Victor Liz Victor Liz

    Liz shot 49 percent on 3-points in World Cup

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (3174)
  2. D. Ferry (2760)
  3. L. James (2565)
  4. J. Valanciunas (2373)
  5. K. Irving (2255)
  1. K. Bryant (2186)
  2. P. George (2027)
  3. G. Monroe (1711)
  4. C. Anthony (1693)
  5. C. Billups (1626)