Thunder Committed to Finishing the Season

Erik Gee

"We're a basketball team, and our job is to play basketball." Those are the words of Oklahoma City Thunder General Manager Sam Presti. They were said in response to a question asking if his feelings were dampened about the NBA restart considering the dangers of coronavirus and current social unrest.  

Whether Presti was sending a not so subtle message to his team or echoing their sentiments, so far, no players are expressing any interest in sitting out when the Thunder departs for Orlando on July 8th.  Players choosing to stay home during this time will not face disciplinary action, although they will forfeit salary.  

While June 23rd was the deadline for players to let their teams know if they wanted to skip the rest of the season, Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that was more of a soft deadline. Players can still go through the process of getting excused/protected status and keep their salaries.

 Wojnarowski says teams are looking at July 1st when rosters are supposed to be set as more of a hard deadline. When July 1st comes unless Presti decides to make a roster move, expect the Thunder to be ready to do what is asked. 

Per the Los Angeles Times, the NBA conducted 302 tests for COVID-19 this week, and 16 players have come up positive. Add that to the overwhelming social responsibility players are feeling right now, and it would be understandable if anyone in the Thunder's traveling party decided to stay behind. 

During a conference call on Friday, Chris Paul Said, "You're going to continue to hear us.".. "This isn't a 'Shut up and dribble' situation." Paul is one of the most socially conscious players in the association.  

He recently collaborated with Will Packer on the documentary "Blackballed" about the fall of Clippers Owner Donald Sterling. Paul and other members of the Thunder will use the rest of this season as a platform to speak out against social injustice.

 It only makes sense that most players see having a national television audience as the most effective way to call attention to Black Lives Matter or other causes they are supporting. Let's also not lose sight of the fact the Thunder genuinely seems to like playing together.  

The 40-24 record they've compiled has surprised everyone, especially the oddsmakers who had Oklahoma City's win total at 32.5. The chance to continue this improbable run, knowing there will be roster changes next season, had to be too enticing to pass up. 

Since Thanksgiving, the Thunder has the third-best record in the NBA and were playing like legitimate contenders before the season stopped. The closer the schedule moved to April, the feeling in the locker room was that of a team that sensed the opportunity to accomplish something extraordinary. 

Depending on how they respond to the time off and how they handle having to play the Lakers, Nuggets, and Clippers during the eight seeding games, it's conceivable Oklahoma City could make a run in the playoffs.  We have a long way to go before the restart of the season, but a healthy Thunder will be a dangerous team for anyone to face. 

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