Thunder Pushing Forward After Clinching Division
All the way back in training camp, the Thunder came up with a set of internal goals that it wanted to accomplish throughout this season. One of them was struck off the list on Friday night, as Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club clinched its fourth consecutive Northwest Division title.
While the Thunder expends more energy worrying about the manner in which it is playing on every given night, with the focus on building long-term habits, it welcomes the reward that comes from hard work throughout the season. The commitment from every player, coach and staffer year round, not just from October through the end of the season, determines the difference between wins and losses. At 55-20 so far this season with seven games remaining, the Thunder has put together enough strong team performances to wrap up its division once again.
“You don’t take it for granted because every year you have your goals and winning the division is one of them,” Brooks said. “We understand it takes a lot of work to accomplish that.”
“There are a lot of parts that have to work and fall into place for it to happen,” Brooks said. “We take pride in not skipping steps. This is a direct result of everybody being on the same page and playing together.”
Despite adversity throughout the year and some new, less experienced players in the fold, the Thunder has marched forward unfazed. Starters Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha have all missed significant time due to injury, but players like Derek Fisher, Andre Roberson, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, Steven Adams, Hasheem Thabeet and Caron Butler have all stepped up and filled in with skill, poise and discipline.
“It speaks to the growth and development of not just the individual players on the team, but collectively as a group and the organization as a whole,” Fisher said. “If you think from 2008 to now, there haven’t been too many organizations as successful as this one.”
The key for the Thunder is to continue growing within its core concepts and principles over these final two weeks of the regular season. Heading into the 2014 Playoffs, the Thunder knows that it will need every man on its roster in order to be successful against its opponents in the challenging Western Conference.
Despite a deep and talented roster, the Thunder never felt entitled to nor anticipated another division title would come easily. Only two other Western Conference teams have ever managed to string together four straight division titles, as the Thunder becomes just the eighth team in NBA history to do so.
The team-wide commitment to focusing on the details, staying late at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center and to honing their craft in the offseason has allowed the organization to accomplish this rare feat. The pervasive attitude, as always with the Thunder, is not one of satisfaction, but rather hunger for even more sustained success.
“Part of being the best is establishing habits, creating a foundation in terms of the way you do things,” Fisher explained. “You try to excel at all times. Winning a division, in any pro sport, to be honest, is an amazing accomplishment in itself, one time. The opportunity to be able to do it four times in a row speaks to what happens here on a day to day basis.”