Despite obvious tank aspirations, Thunder continue fighting

After defeating the Memphis Grizzlies 128-122 in a Sunday matinee matchup, two things are clearer than ever: Sam Presti’s actively trying to tank, and the Thunder roster led by Mark Daigneault are fighting to win every game they play.

In their second game out of the All-Star break, the Thunder rested Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Al Horford. In their third game since the break on Sunday, the Thunder sat Luguentz Dort, Theo Maledon, and Darius Bazley.

On Saturday, the Thunder fought hard and lost after a second-half letdown. On Sunday, without more key players, the Thunder rode a fourth-quarter run to a hard-fought victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, behind SGA’s 30 points, and the surprise of the day: Aleksej Pokusevski scoring 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting and 5-of-8 shooting from three.

This is a huge development, considering Poku’s struggles through the first half of the season, where he was statistically one of, if not the worst player in the NBA.

SGA and Poku weren’t the only players that stepped up for the Thunder on Sunday afternoon. Kenrich Williams’ resurgence was quite impressive as well, scoring 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting. The rest of the Thunder shot 20-of-35 for the game. The Thunder as a team shot an incredibly efficient 57.5 percent from the field and 51.6 percent from three.

The question from me is, what does Sam Presti do? Will this turn into a battle between the general manager and players on what this season’s goal is? Will the players decide to turn down the heat a bit and lose games they’re ‘supposed to lose? Or will Sam Presti just let this season play out, seeing how many games this team can win or lose and roll with the results?

Just past the midway point of the season, there are so many questions surrounding this team and the possible directions things can go in. With the trade deadline right around the corner, there are questions on whether or not the Thunder should part ways with George Hill, Al Horford, and Trevor Ariza, who hasn’t played one minute for the Thunder. Does Presti really want Cade Cunningham, who will more than likely be a top-three pick in the NBA Draft?

Regardless, I believe this team will fight and win games that they aren’t expected to win. The Thunder also won’t be the worst team in the Western Conference. It will take a near-complete overhaul for them to be worse than teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, or the Orlando Magic.

Like I said months ago, the Thunder aren’t going to be a horrible team this year. It would be more entertaining for a Thunder fan if they’d stop betting on a tanking season and enjoy the fun brand of basketball that the Thunder are providing.

Addam M. Francisco

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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