In the NBA, mid-February is supposed to be a kind of reprieve — All-Star Weekend makes actors and coaching faculties catch their sighs, before gearing up for the final push of the regular season and the climbing pressure of the impending postseason.
But for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the 28 daytimes between February 10 and March 8, 2016, were fitted with a series of shots to their collective solar plexus, as misfortunes deterred throwing the team week after week.
First, it was the deaths among Ingrid Williams, assistant manager Monty Williams’ wife, who was beloved in all regions of the NBA for her soul, modesty and humanity. Seen as a source of convenience to musicians wherever her husband happened to be coaching, Ingrid, mother of five, was killed in a head-on automobile gate-crash, after the other move, who reportedly had methamphetamine in her plan, lost controller of her speeding SUV.
In the working day following her extinction, Ingrid was described by Oklahoma City’s Anthony Morrow as an “angel”; her death inspired hotshot Kevin Durant to break down into tears during practise when the clang was mentioned by a reporter; and her memorial service raised far-reaching member states of the NBA family together in Oklahoma, as Monty extradited a moving praise, expecting all present for prayers of peace and forgiveness for the other driver.
“Let us not forget that there were two beings in such situations, and that category requirement devotions as well, ” Williams said that day. “Life is hard. It would be difficult. And that was tough. But we nurse no ill will toward the Donaldson family, and we, as a group, friends united in harmony, are due to be praying for that pedigree, because they grieve as well.”
Then, it was the passing of minority owner Aubrey McClendon, who was partially held liable for creating the city its first major professional athletics team.
Finally, it was the lethal shooting of Demetrius Pinckney, brother of crew lightning rod Dion Waiters. Pinckney was caught up in the crosshairs of a shooting rampage in the street of Philadelphia. He was just 21 years old.
If the Thunder franchise were a accomplished jigsaw question at the beginning of the season, ready to recover from last year’s disappointing finish and raring to compete for the 2016 name, mid-March ascertained the articles of the baffle knocked out of target and strew across the table. Williams missed season this spring, as did Waiters. And the society known for its immeasurable intensity — Russell Westbrook’s post-basket boomings of enthusiasm, the residence arena audience — was unexpectedly shrouded in pitch-black, forced to try to continually claw its behavior back to relative normality as fate obstructed knocking it down a peg.
When the Western Conference Finals began a little over a week ago, few imparted the Thunder a fighting chance against the high-power, high-volume offense of the Golden State Fighter. Sure, everyone expected to be entertained by Russell Westbrook and wowed by Kevin Durant — but the “ve thought about” OKC stymieing Stephen Curry? Of softening Draymond Green? There exactly wasn’t a imaginable plan for how they intend to even struggle that. Golden State was that good, that machine-like, that universally favored.
Today is Thursday, May 26. The Oklahoma City Thunder have a 3-1 lead on that good, machine-like, recently universally preferred Fighters squad. Attendants is playing inspired basketball — hitting nearly 43 percentage from beyond the arc this postseason — and the sorority even got to show off for its auxiliary tutor, as Williams, who’s taken a leave of absence, surprised the guys by listening the Thunder’s first-round rout of the Dallas Mavericks last month.
Just getting to this point, on the brink of eliminating Golden state, has shown the types of fortitude that seems innate in this team’s DNA. It’s been attacked from all sides all time, and even now it’s still coping with the aftermath of a hellish 28 periods that were more reminiscent of the denouement of a Shakespearean tragedy than of an NBA season.
So this series, with the odds stacked against them? A kicking, vigorous Green? A presumably unstoppable Steph Curry? Well, that’s on-court substance. That’s easy. That doesn’t actually matter in the splendid scheme of things. The Thunder have been through worse. And while stopping The Good Display In Basketball is certainly a feat, it’s merely a testament to the strength they’ve already proven they possess in more important instances this spring. It’s only the most recent reminder of these guys’ ability to unite when all inferno separates loose — a remember of their mental ferocity and of their knack for maintaining some equilibrium amid such relentless instability.
They’re one play away from history. Five wins away from a deed. It won’t find it easier, even though it is do manage to knock out Golden State. But there’s without doubt that they’ve already dragged themselves and each other through the more difficult fraction. Say what you will about the Fighters, but the Thunder deserve this.