Thunder Has Belief in One Another

MIAMI -- Since the Thunder moved to Oklahoma City four seasons ago, its connection with the city has grown and formed a tighter bond every day.

The fact that General Manager Sam Presti brings every new player to the Oklahoma City National Memorial before they step onto the court at Chesapeake Energy Arena speaks volumes about the way this organization views its role in its community. And also how that community inspires them to persevere, never give up and fight through tough times and adversity. Right now, the Thunder faces one of those situations, down 3-1 to the Miami Heat heading into a road Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

“This is a big-time stage of basketball,” forward Kevin Durant said. “We all enjoy this moment. We didn’t just get here to make it here and say we did and made it to the Finals. We want to come in here and we want to try to get a title. It’s all about competing until that last buzzer sounds, and that’s what we’re going to do. That’s the type of city we play for, a city that never gives up. That’s the type of team we are. We’re going to keep fighting and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

Starting out as teenagers coming straight out of high school, the young Thunder core of Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka have watched one another grow up together, not just on the court, but off it. In the locker room, at the Integris Health Thunder Development Center or on the road with one another, the Thunder has developed a family-like bond that means it will stick together through thick and thin.

“This group of guys never gives up regardless of what happens,” Westbrook said. “We’ve been through many different situations throughout this Playoffs, (it’s) just another task for us. We just have to be ready to play for the next game.”

The emotional side of the game is important, but the trust the Thunder has built amongst one another is built through the results it sees in practice every day. Knowing that the teammate next to them on the court is working just as hard to help the team achieve its collective goals gives each player confidence in the group’s identity and unified focus. Over the years with the team, Head Coach Scott Brooks has seen the way that his team has grown up and developed together.

“We’ve grown as a team, this team has been together,” Brooks said. “We talk about process, but process is work. It’s doing your work every day. It’s not just a word, it’s an action that we do every day. Nothing is going to change. We’re going to come to work today and work on things that we think are going to help us win tomorrow night.”

With the team’s worth derived from its work, the Thunder never fails to put in the requisite effort throughout the course of practices, shootarounds, film sessions and games. The next step for this team to take in order to start on the comeback trail in this series stems from one word. The attitude of this Thunder team and the city it represents was succinctly summarized in that same word by Westbrook on Wednesday.

“Toughness,” Westbrook said. “We just have to come out and play with toughness. Any way we do it, we have to find a way to get a win.”