Dear OKC

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It’s wild to think that I’m already two years into my NBA career. Year 2 will always be a special one to me because of two relationships: The relationship with my teammates, and the relationship our team has with our fans and Oklahoma City. You guys are the real deal, Loud City, and I wanted to write this note thanking you for all your support as we start the process of preparing for Year 3. 

It’s only right that I start this thing with a quick story about Zay. When he came into the team, he wasn’t playing at all. No discredit to him, that’s just basketball. Starting on the bench, from low minutes, trying to build your way into the rotation. Well, we have this game in Dallas. I still remember this. I was out, hurt. I threw my ankle, whatever. And I remember sitting there on the bench, and the game was pretty much over. We were getting blown out. They call Isaiah into the game. I want to say we were down 16 points with four minutes left or something…. And Isaiah just goes whack, whack, whack. All of a sudden, the game’s going to overtime. We ended up winning, and he had something like 15 points. And from that point on, he’d earned himself a consistent spot.

Jaylin Williams is another one. Started out with a bunch of DNPs, went from the G League to starting at the center position for us. Credit to both of them, man, because those guys are a big part of why we had success this year. It takes grit and a lot of perseverance to be ready when your number’s called, regardless of how many minutes you’re getting a night. I don’t take that for granted. To come in and work the way that they do sets the tone for everybody. Coach is obviously the head of what we’re doing on the floor, and he has an IQ that I’ve never seen before in a coach. Shai’s our leader, and he sets the standard for what the group should look like. I could talk about Shai all day. And Lu. But the guys who don’t get to play a whole lot and still show up in key moments, you really have to tip your hat to them because they’re the backbone of this thing. They come in and work harder than anybody. 

I wanted to write this note thanking you for all your support as we start the process of preparing for Year 3. 

Josh Giddey

And that’s the culture we’ve got here. Not what we’re building … what we have.

It’s funny, living on the other side of the world and following the NBA from afar, there’s a lot that you miss as a fan. When I got drafted to the Thunder two years ago, I knew just the basics. The KD, Russ, and Harden stuff. Losing to Golden State in the Western Conference Finals. KD leaving the team. I saw Dame hit that shot, in 2019, to knock them out of the playoffs. So I was aware of some of the things that had happened. But it wasn’t until I got here that I realized how much I didn’t actually know. Like there’s no way I could have known much about the community I was going to be a part of. What the Thunder really means to OKC. It’s the heartbeat of this city. Everywhere you go fans are showing love. And that means a lot to me as a guy starting a new life, in a new country. Win or lose, they’re there. Any time somebody in Melbourne asks me, “What’s the city like? How are the fans?” I always say the same thing: “The love here is real. You can feel it.”

Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty

My first year, we had these big, loud crowds. Y’all were blowing up. The atmosphere at Paycom is unbelievable when we’re rocking. Then this year we started winning a bit more, and something crazy happened. Haha. I didn’t even think this was possible, but the crowd took it to another level. You’re going to earn the name Loud City, no matter what kind of night we’re having. And that makes us want to go out there and play our hearts out.

When I got here, I knew where we were in terms of the rebuilding timeline. The team obviously had gone from having multiple All-Stars, to having a bunch of rookies and young guys start all their games. Sam’s probably the best in the business at what he does, with what he’s done with all the picks and trades he’s made, and all the players he’s drafted. I think the best part about it, though, is that he’s never rushed. He never panicked or diverted from the path he saw the team going on. He took me at sixth, which was broadly thought of as a reach. Nobody thought I was going to go that high. He took Jalen at twelve, who people had going late in the first round. So, he’s done some great things throughout this rebuild. And I also give credit to Mark Daigneault, who’s done an awesome job with our group.

Our guys are some guys, you know what I mean? We belong here.

Josh Giddey

Last season, it was tough not winning games. It wasn’t like guys weren’t out there trying to compete — we were. There were just times in the season when we didn’t have the experience, and other times when teams were just better than us. But coming into this season, we stuck on the same path. We never tried to skip steps in the process, and that’s important when you’ve got a young rebuilding team. We came back from the summer ready to hit the ground running. Sam had drafted well. And we were ready. Through training camp and preseason, it was becoming clear that we could actually compete this season. Growth as a group can take years, and it has. But we’ve continued to come in every day, every practice, and get better and better. And now we’re seeing success. That’s the process. No one likes losing, but to get past that phase, you have to be able to zoom out and see the bigger picture. 

We’ve always known, long as we keep stacking good days, wins are on the way.

Outside of our locker room, I think people probably had their own opinions about what our season was going to look like. Most people probably expected us to be at the top of the lottery odds come June. I mean, I don’t blame them. We’re a young team, the No. 2 pick gets hurt and is out for the season. I get it. Our guys don’t care about that. The outside noise was never extra motivation for our group. We knew internally that we had the pieces to be better than people thought we would. And we didn’t win our first couple of games, but once we got a taste of some momentum throughout the year, we started picking teams off. We beat some really good teams, and I think that’s when people started to realize, OKC isn’t an easy dub. You have to worry about us. You have to have an answer for Shai, Lu, Jalen, and yeah, me too. Our guys are some guys, you know what I mean? We belong here.

We’re headed in the right direction. We can all feel it.

Josh Giddey

One thing that we emphasized in our locker room was not getting rattled by losing games. Sometimes you can lose four or five, and as a young team, it can string out to 10 or 11, because you’re not as experienced with knowing how to get back on track. When we came out of the All-Star break, it was clear we weren’t all the way locked in. There was a lack of focus, and we ended up losing five in a row. But the thing I love about this team is that during that losing stretch, we never came into practice the next day with our heads down. We came in with a next-game mindset — the previous game is done, and we have to be able to move forward. Once we were able to get back on track, we won eight out of our next 10 games, and that was important. It said a lot about our growth and maturity as a group.

I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t admit that there are some games that make me look back and think, That should have been a win on our schedule. I remember we played in Detroit one time, and we were up at half, it was looking good, and they came back and ended up beating us pretty comfortably. Same thing happened in Indiana. We went there and lost to them with a couple of their key players out. And we lost to a Charlotte team at home that had none of their core squad. Honestly, we probably went into those games assuming that we were going to just get the win and roll over them. And that came back to bite us because the West was really tight in the end, so you win games like that, and your seeding can move from where we were at 10, to seven or eight, or even as high as six.

Look, at the end of the day, that’s the difference between a young team and a more experienced one. But if there’s an upside, it’s that we’re learning the lessons that a young team has to learn, and we’re headed in the right direction. We can all feel it. We’re nowhere near where we want to be, but it’s good to be able to see the light and the success from the work our guys have been putting in the past few years, before they were even broadcasting our games on TV.

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Coming off such a good win in New Orleans in the postseason, the stakes were so high. We’re on the road. We’re a young team. No one thought we were going to win that game, and we beat them in their building. And for me, that was my first postseason win, so it was special. As a kid, you grow up watching those types of games. It was something I used to dream about. Then we had to turn around and play Minnesota two days later. And unfortunately, we just weren’t ready from the jump. They put it on us early. That was a team that had been in that situation before. They knew what it took to win those types of games.

After what we went through to get to that point, and coming off such a high in New Orleans, to end the season like that left a sour taste in our mouth. But I think it was a great learning experience. We treated New Orleans like any other game. But in Minnesota, it felt like we tried to do things that we hadn’t done all year. We didn’t stick with what had got us there, and we have to live with that. But if I know anything about this team, I know we’ll grow from it.

I love our group, man. And from the bottom of my heart, I love this city. We’re not even close to the team that we can be. And I think that’s a great position for us to be in.

More success is on the way.

See you in October.