At this point last year, the Oklahoma City Thunder were 25-13. They had star power and the appeal of a Michael Bay direct-to-streaming film — explosions, exaggerated character traits masquerading as personality and a wise-cracking New Zealander.
Now the Oklahoma City Thunder are 20-15. To keep with the film comparison, this squad can be an unfinished Wes Anderson screenplay without the dysfunction. Chris Paul stars as Anderson’s frequent collaborating character, Darius Bazley is the new featured player and Danilo Gallinari can be the 6-foot-10 Italian bellhop in a Genevan hostel.
Two different teams with different records. More importantly, different expectations — which is important to remember when the inevitable fan question of which team is better comes about.
It really depends on the phrasing of your question. Do you mean which team is more enjoyable to watch, which team is more entertaining or which team makes me want to break my TV more?
This article will deal with the question of which team would win — the 2018-19 Thunder or the 2019-20 Thunder?
To make things fair, Paul George is healthy, Andre Roberson remains in rehab-purgatory, Billy Donovan is still a good coach and the in-house arena music is stuck in pre-2019 staleness. Other silly things like: “Why are players who were on both teams their respective ages, but current day Thunder players are not a year younger?” or anyone hating on science-fiction will be ignored. There are no coach’s challenges.
PREGAME — FLINT RESTAURANT
The Franchise Thunder Pregame Show is hosted by Current and Past Jerry Ramsey, Jon Hamm, Desmond Mason. Current-Hamm warns Past-Hamm about the third Star Wars movie while Current-Ramsey takes a selfie with Past-Ramsey — only to incorrectly tag himself in the Instagram post; caption, “Fill my eyes with that double vision.”
The Masons exchange Eddie Sutton impressions on-air during an NBA pregame show.
PREGAME — CHESAPEAKE ENERGY ARENA
Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook refuse to acknowledge the other person is on the floor. Paul George makes sure to high-five Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. Upon shaking hands with SGA, George is struck with an epiphany of understanding. George is now aware of the split timeline.
Past-Steven Adams shakes Current-Steven Adams’ hand. The two understand that although they want to set aside their “differences” and start a world-traveling Netflix special, they must combat each other.
Upon being introduced, 2018-19 Billy Donovan is greeted by a combination of muted indifference and token boos while 2019-20 Billy Donovan bathes in sparse cheers and season ticket-holders telling their friends, “I always said he was a good coach.”
Hinder performs a punk version of the Star-Spangled Banner similar to their punk version of “Oklahoma!” The country collectively weeps.
FIRST QUARTER — TIP-OFF
Adams wins the tip by hitting the ball to Westbrook who then throws the ball back between his legs to George. George dribbles down the floor while Westbrook forces Past-Terrance Ferguson from the confines of the corner. George — being defended by Current-Terrance Ferguson — immediately yields by dropping the ball to Past-Adams. Current-Adams intentionally fouls his past counterpart, both men laugh and say bad words to each other.
FIRST QUARTER — PAST-OKC 11 CURRENT-OKC 8; 8:32 REMAINING
George begins the game 0-for-3, no doubt shaken by pregame revelation that he should be in Los Angeles and not OKC. Westbrook is 2-for-2 with each make being a fastbreak dunk thanks to two open-floor steals on Paul.
Jerami Grant shows off that he’s actually a good basketball player by hitting his two corner 3’s against a slow-closing Gallinari. It’s a shame that Grant will rarely touch the ball from here on out.
Gilgeous-Alexander’s lack of speed confuses past-Ferguson, who has now registered two fouls. SGA with six points, four from the foul line. Past-Donovan is forced to bring in Past-Dennis Schroder.
FIRST QUARTER — PAST-OKC 14 CURRENT-OKC 20; 6:02 REMAINING
Current-OKC has gone on 12-2 run over the past two-and-a-half minutes thanks to Gallinari doing what he typically does — cook Grant like thrice-baked potatoes. Westrook’s opening game adrenaline has worn off making way for Paul’s librarian-style basketball assault.
Current-Schroder has come in for Paul. Comparing the two Schroders, one could say that Past-Schroder is Dragon Ball Goku — no blond spot — while Current-Schroder is Super Saiyan Goku — blond spot.
The Adams’ continue to discuss their plans for a world-traveling Netflix special while fighting for positioning during free throws.
END OF FIRST QUARTER — PAST-OKC 22 CURRENT-OKC 27