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. Mitch Kupchak: Lakers “don’t have time” to build through the draft

    May 24, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    Mitch Kupchak Mitch Kupchak

    The Lakers will be picking second in next month’s draft.

  2. Lil B says James Harden is officially under the Based God’s curse

    May 24, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    James Harden James Harden

    The rapper wants Harden to apologize for stealing his dance.

  3. Stephen Curry glares at heckling Rockets fan, tells him to ‘sit down’

    May 24, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Stephen Curry Stephen Curry

    Curry not only dropped 40, but he was talking back to the fans in Houston.

  4. Sixers expected to select best player available over need with No. 3 pick in 2015 NBA draft

    May 24, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Sam Hinkie Press Conference Getty Images

    Depending on what happens with the first two picks, Philadelphia could fill both requirements.

  5. Warriors don’t live by 3, die by 3. They live by defense, live by defense

    May 24, 2015, 12:57 AM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Three Getty Images

    There’s seemingly no solving Golden State’s dominant defense

  6. Stephen Curry drops 40, Warriors rout Rockets by 35 to take 3-0 series lead

    May 24, 2015, 12:07 AM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Three Getty Images

    Houston has played well and valiantly this postseason, but the Warriors are simply better.

  7. Raptors’ Terrence Ross undergoes ankle surgery

    May 23, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors vs Chicago Bulls Getty Images

    Ross, and the Raptors, had a disappointing season.

  8. Legendary Harlem Globetrotter dribbler, Hall of Famer Marques Haynes passes away at 89

    May 23, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT

    HAYNES AP

    He certainly is one of the greatest ball handlers of all time.

  9. Hawks Kyle Korver out for remainder of playoffs with high ankle sprain

    May 23, 2015, 3:16 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Two Getty Images

    I’d say this puts the Hawks in a difficult spot, but they already were in one.

  10. Report: Scott Skiles in lead to become next Orlando coach

    May 23, 2015, 12:08 PM EDT

    150523_skiles Getty Images

    The popular former Magic player would sell well to the fan base.

  11. Hawks’ Kyle Korver leaves Game 2 with ankle sprain, does not return (VIDEO)

    May 23, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Two Getty Images

    Atlanta is already down 2-0 to Cleveland in the series, and if Korver misses any time, the Hawks are finished.

Featured video

Will Klay Thompson get a little help on James Harden?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Irving (6835)
  2. K. Love (5807)
  3. D. Howard (5293)
  4. S. Curry (4792)
  5. P. Beverley (4604)
  1. D. Carroll (4128)
  2. L. James (4121)
  3. K. Bryant (3881)
  4. K. Durant (3850)
  5. M. Speights (3847)