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October 31, 2013

Fightin' Words: Thunder will test fans' patience

CHICKASHA —

It's great how easily Oklahomans have taken to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Basically anyone who likes basketball in the state loves the Thunder, regardless of what city they live in. It makes sense, given this is the first true, modern instance of a professional team in the state. It probably also helps that they've been so good.

This season, I feel, will be a test of that loyal fan base as the Thunder deal with the struggles of a championship-calibre team that never could get that extra push. It begins with Russell Westbrook, who's struggles with a knee injury will keep him out for the first month and a half of the season after surgery. 

The departure of Kevin Martin, the replacement for sixth-man James Harden, basically means a lot is riding on Kevin Durant's shoulders. Reminiscing back to the playoffs, that pressure produced a rather tired Durant, and if he faces fatigue earlier than usual, it could spell a bad ending to the season.

Basically, the Thunder need some other form of offense. Reggie Jackson has been promising, but he's no Westbrook, who began to blend well with Durant to share offensive duties before the devastating injury. Players like Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka, and Nick Collison are not really known for taking the offensive lead; rather, they provide the backbone of a sturdy defense.

They will need someone like Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb, or Steven Adams to pick up some of that slack. It's a lot to ask from such young players who have yet to really prove themselves at this level. Either that, or Derek Fisher will need to turn back the years and use his experience to spread the ball around well, find the lanes, and get some easy buckets. At 39, no one's really expecting him to do more than fill in.

All of this spells a tough time for a Thunder faithful that are used to widespread success. Sure, they got a great result against the Jazz. But that took 42 points from Durant, and even he can't regularly produce that sort of performance. Best advice for fans: sit back, relax, and hope that Westbrook's comeback is quick and painless. In the meantime, just take the pain and stay strong.

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