The NBA entered its third year without the All-Star Game at its annual showcase event in February. It ended up being the second year in a row that the Game did not go off as scheduled.
The problem was the health of the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis. The combination of trying to squeeze in a grueling season with its separate tourney in the past month, plus having the largest amount of foreign-born players on its roster, was problematic, according to the NBA.
The reason for the shortened break was because it coincided with the seventh-game schedule. The NBA had some extra time to give itself some extra rest. For the Thunder, the short break was a reopening of an old wound.
In this year’s NBA Draft, Russell Westbrook had his uncharacteristic post-draft period, raising his voice at his first camp, staying out of many team-building events to help get the pick-up workouts in quicker.
The Thunder’s offseason had focused more on setting up a training camp in Kentucky than any other team.
A bad practice schedule in summer league could lead to the public’s perception of a tired team.
The importance of a laid-back offseason to a star player like Westbrook was obvious in early June, when he was introduced to the media. He was the type of player that doesn’t need much in the way of introductions to start the day.
With the playoffs behind them, there was no need to add to the hype that followed the Thunder in recent years. All Westbrook could do was to pat himself on the back for pulling a team from the second division of the NBA (Russell listed the final standings a few weeks ago), and then downplaying the notion that he did anything special to get that feat.
When it comes to sporting organizations, success breeds publicity. That awareness leads to crowd and media coverage, and then goes all the way to team sponsorships and advertising.
Before the team gets in the playoffs and contends for an NBA title, it needs plenty of attention.
Things aren’t so bad in Oklahoma City with a roster of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Dennis Schroder.
The Thunder missed out on their first lottery pick in several years. No matter how strong the draft order, losing a quality player the Thunder may have needed was a blow.
Three players outside the organization were selected to the Rising Stars Challenge during the All-Star Weekend on Feb. 17. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who tried to quickly overshadow the annual do-over in more ways than one, had to speak to the Russell Westbrook Show because two of his top prospects would not make it to the showcase in Charlotte.
The Thunder’s offseason had little to do with the stars falling in Charlotte, and the roster it re-assembled in the month of July will be completely different from what it had in the month of June.
After losing its fourth straight NBA playoff series, the Thunder are sitting at the base of the Eastern Conference. There was little organization before the playoffs even started, aside from Derek Fisher’s interim coaching duties, and the regular season will not have to follow suit.
“We thought it would (be more difficult),” said longtime franchise executive Sam Presti in June, following the Thunder’s Game 7 loss in the first round of the playoffs. “We thought our No. 1 focus would be on the playoff and advancing there. But it’s in the back of our minds.”
It wasn’t anything new. The Thunder have not had a regular season that resembles anything close to normal for multiple years. There will be more depth in the offseason with the addition of Schroder and Austin Rivers, as well as the potential losses of Andre Roberson and Enes Kanter.
Oklahoma City will try to help this summer as it is able. It’s working on a two-year contract extension with Westbrook for more than $80 million and another deal with George that could cost $140 million over five years.
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