The Oklahoma City Thunder got a pretty thoroughly convincing win against the Utah Jazz last night. The game was competitive throughout, but OKC never relinquished their lead. Furthermore, a late game 10 point surge by Kevin Durant put the game well out of reach for the Jazz.
This was just a pre-season game, but the loss appears to have had a demoralizing effect on the Utah Jazz locker room. It starts with Coach Quin Snyder. During the post-game press conference, Snyder launched into a two and a half minute rant. The rant was prompted by a question about whether Snyder would like to see Rudy Gobert get it going before the season begins. Here's the entire rant, with a couple of sentences that I bolded for emphasis.
Snyder: "Yeah, look, the thing about our team is we’ve got some good players. We’ve got an opportunity to be a good team. It’s not like anybody or our team has done anything. We’ve played well at times. Our individual players have played well at times.
You’re looking at Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and guys that have a level that no one, we haven’t touched that. So for us, it’s, hey, look at what that is and what those guys are doing and how hard they practice. You see them before the game? How hard they went? Those are hungry guys that are All-Stars.
If we want to get to that place individually, collectively, that’s what you have to do. You have to say, ‘Look, that’s it.’ And I think they appreciate the opportunity they have. Kevin Durant was hurt for a year. They lost in the NBA Finals. They know that level and they looked unbelievably hungry. They just came out and they came at it.
To me, that’s a team that has an appreciation for how difficult it is to win in this league. They know that you have to do everything, and sometimes that’s still not enough on a given night unless you get a little lucky. We don’t understand that. Why would we? We haven’t been in that situation.
So to play a team that’s on that level to me is that’s what you have to do to get there, you have to experience it. You can talk about it all you want until Kevin Durant comes down from 3 feet behind the line and you go under on a pick-and-roll and he drills a 3 and you say, ‘No, that’s what he does. That’s what he does.’ That’s a credit to them.
It’s not being down on our team, either — it’s just a realistic - hey, I love our team. Like, we didn't make a change. We got Alec back. We re-signed Book. We've got the same team we had last year. If we didn't feel that way about our team we wouldn't do that, but that doesn't mean we're a good team yet.
We were a good team for about two months. And we were a good team when other teams were sometimes resting a player. The competition that we played was always formidable in the league, but we weren’t playing teams that were competing for the playoffs very often.
I’m not dampening any enthusiasm, but I am being realistic about who our group is — and that’s what our group needs. We need to be realistic about the level that’s out there, and if we want to reach it, it’s a hard road."
It's clear that Snyder has a high level of respect for the Thunder, and a very pragmatic view of his team.
It reminds me of an incident during a Thunder-Jazz game on November 18th, 2014. The Thunder were leading that game by 9 points, yet hadn't scored in three and a half minutes. Steven Adams was able to wrestle position and get fouled by Gobert. Coach Snyder was furious, and started screaming at his players to "WAKE UP!". The tirade resulted in a technical foul for Snyder, but propelled the Jazz to a 17 point victory. Below is a video of the tirade in question.
In any case, Snyder's rant tonight clearly wasn't limited to the press conference. Ben Dowsett of Salt City Hoops described the post-game locker room as quiet, with "the feel of a group that had just recieved a stern talking-to." Gordon Hayward was one of the dejected.
Hayward: "Guys like you were hyping us up, and hyped us up all off season. We really didn't deserve any of that."
If you ask me, this is pretty insane. It was just a pre-season game, after all. The Thunder made shots when it mattered, but the Jazz successfully kept pace after falling behind by as many as 20. That's something to hang their hat on. Especially considering Utah made part of their run during the third, when OKC's starters were in.
But if Snyder's history tells us anything, it's that he loves to use galvanizing moments in order to motivate his team. Between these incidents and Enes Kanter's history with Utah, the Thunder-Jazz series should prove to be something special this year.
Any thoughts on Coach Snyder's epic rant?