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Michael Wilbon: Talking About OKC Thunder Chances, Evolution of a Champ

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Michael Wilbon, erstwhile reporter for the Washington Post and now predominantly a talking head for ESPN, appeared on Scott Van Pelt's radio show to talk for a few minutes about the NBA playoffs. Specifically, he spoke to the chances of the Bulls, Thunder, Celtics, and Heat. Give the whole thing a listen.

Michael Wilbon on ESPN Radio | ESPN

I have excerpted some of his comments that speak more directly to the Thunder here:

Scott Van Pelt: Would it be a mistake for say Bulls fans or Thunder fans to say, "I understand our team hasn't had any playoff success, but look at what the Celtics did in 2008?"

Michael Wilbon: Yes, it would be a major mistake.

You hit on the heart of the situation…you have to have your heart broken in the playoffs; that's the new tradition...

The Celtics of three years ago, they had already had their heart broken…I think that's the necessary part of the evolution of a champion...

The history of the league is, whether you're a Julius Erving or a Larry Bird or Michael Jordan, this is something you go through...

I remember I was in the Miami locker room the evening that Kendrick Perkins was traded to Oklahoma City. You could feel the entire room sort of exhale. And they were very candid about it. They were surprised the Celtics made that trade, and they were happy the Celtics made that trade…

I thought that there was no way Miami could be Boston before that trade took place. After the trade I'm a little less willing to go out there and say, "No way Miami beats Boston." I think they even things up. 

My thoughts:

  • Wilbon is only speaking about the Thunder tangentially, but it is not hard to read between the lines. Just like the fact that he does not think the Bulls are ready to get to the finals, in the same way he does not think the Thunder will, either. The reason why is because it takes something more than pure talent and skill to get through multiple seven-game series. Wilbon talks about getting your heart broken, and enduring the pain that losing a contested series brings.
  • The Thunder might think that losing last season to the Lakers in six qualifies for the kind of pain which Wilbon speaks.  That wasn't pain though. Pain only comes from losing when the stakes are highest. Although it pains me to say it, that level is the Thunder's ceiling this year - to lose a series that they think they can win, and then process the emotions during the off-season.
  • Wilbon talks about the effect that the Celtics losing Kendrick Perkins might have on the Eastern Conference. Bill Simmons has talked about this facet as well. Naysayers have commented that it doesn't seem like either losing or gaining Perkins really means much in the grand scheme of things for Boston or OKC. However, the players themselves know who can play, and the sense we get from hearing these accounts is that Perkins brought something of which the Heat were afraid. They did not want to have to deal with Perk. And now that he's gone, it is possible that their entire outlook in taking on the Celtics has changed too.

    On the other side of the coin, Perkins is now in OKC, and everybody knows it.