We are all guilty of it.
There is none innocent, no not one.
You’ve been on a trip. Maybe it take 30 minutes, maybe it takes multiple hours, heck maybe it takes multiple days.
Maybe you were Max Goof, begrudgingly singing bangers while being forced into a camping trip to the middle of nowhere. Maybe you were Jennifer Anniston in an RV with your fake family to transfer drugs across the border of Mexico. Maybe you’re getting your Clark Griswold on and are the captain of this ship and the organizer of this trip.
No matter your role, no matter the duration, no matter the destination we have all asked the question: “Are we there yet?”
When the Oklahoma City Thunder traded away Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and to a lesser degree, Jerami Grant; the writing was on the wall for the direction that the Thunder were headed.
Sam Presti echoed that sentiment when he wrote an op-ed on the Thunder’s future plans. in it he preached patience, talked about not taking shortcuts, and cautioned us they aren’t looking to cut corners. He also expressed the sentiment that in order to get back to where we want to be, where we are making an “Arrival not an appearance” in the Playoffs, to where we will be able to have “sustained success” that its going to take time.
Seems reasonable enough right? Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all that jazz.
Thunder fans began to theorize just how much time it would take. From the time the op-ed was published in 2019 and beyond, if you examine each prospective season year by year it always made the most sense for it all to come to a head in the 2023 offseason. And not without reason.
For starters, as opposed to this years draft it is supposed to have a generational draft class. With French unicorn Demogorgon Victor Wembanyama, and currently 17 year old (!!) G League stand out Scoot Henderson as the headliners, fans are salivating at the possibility of adding a player of their caliber to their squad. If you’re able to hypothetically add Wemby (as he is so lovingly called) to a team with Shai, Giddey, Dort, Tre, etc. its no surprise you would be looking to compete sooner rather than later.
But, say you don’t strike gold in the 2023 draft lottery to give you the opportunity at one of these studs. Kemba Walker’s contract comes off your books, that’s $27 mill off your cap sheet. Speaking of money, that’s when the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (you can call it CBA but if you do you have to push your proverbial glasses ups your nose after saying it) will be finalized. The Thunder, famously, hasn’t had a lot of luck with the CBA *push* in the past (See: James Harden, Kevin Durant) so it makes some sense if you wanted to wait until that is finalized so you can properly plan and execute the NBA’s version of Order 66 and take over the league in a single offseason.
Yes, 2023 seems like the best time to really push your chips in and start to try to compete. Let guys play through nagging injuries, play your vets even back to backs, really see what the team can do, and try to earn a playoff berth.
If you too came to that conclusion, I would classify you as a gentleman (or lady) and a scholar.
But we would appear to be wrong.
During today’s exit interviews there were a TON of great quotes. Starting with Mark Daigneault who was seemingly looking to have his cake and eat it too.
It’s easy to chalk it up as coach speak, but as the players took the podium one by one they echoed the same desire. One team, one dream, one goal: make the playoffs NEXT YEAR.
It started with Kenrich Williams.
Then, Luguentz Dort.
Isaiah Roby came at it from a different perspective.
Josh Giddey followed suit.
Now I get it, it’s pretty split in terms of who wants incremental improvement and who wants marginal improvement. But if you pair that with a telling quote from a certain Shaivonte Aician Gilegous-Alexander and both your proverbial and literal eyebrows start to raise.
Whether the future means this year, or further. Whether it means targeting one of the tops draft prospects, teaming up with Karl Anthony-Towns, trading for his cousin Nickel Alexander-Walker, or something else entirely. But throughout the day of exit interviews, of Shai clowning his teammates, Kenny clutching a basketball, Giddey talking about traffic, and Tre in his Whitney Houston shirt there was a constant theme. Next year is going to be different.
As we have ventured closer and closer to the return of contention, fans have expressed their lack of patience for the rebuild. Much like a child in the backseat of a packed minivan would while asking the phrase, “Are we there yet?”.
Whether it’s because of their own impatience, their distaste for watching Zavier Simpson shoot hook shots, or because they simply don’t believe the team as currently constructed while adding 2 top 15 draft picks can effectively tank… Thunder fans everywhere seem to be asking that same question.
Are we there yet?
Based on today’s exit interviews, one thing is becoming abundantly clear: we may be closer than we thought.