The Oklahoma City Thunder are in town tonight, which gives the Wizards an opportunity to judge their rebuilding project against the team they modeled it after. That explains why Michael Lee's story in the Washington Post focuses on that very topic. Lee talked to members of the Thunder about how they were able to go from being one of the NBA's worst teams to its best in the early part of this shortened season.
There are two ways to look at the Thunder's development. The Wizards could focus on this quote from Kevin Durant if they want to feel better about their situation.
"Keep faith, man. You’ve got to go through tough stretches. I’ve been through that for two years in this league, losing a hundred games in two years. Just keep faith in your hard work and things are going to change. They have the right talent here, the front office is doing the right thing. In no time, they’ll be pretty good.
But to me, that wouldn't be smart. Instead, I'd rather they focus on this Durant quote.
Players would arrive at practice three hours early or be looked upon as outcasts. Days off from practice were considered challenges from the coaching staff to still find ways to work on their individual development and improvement.
"That’s what we hang our hat on is being hard workers," Durant said, adding that when players join the Thunder through the draft or trades, "those guys come in and see us working, and they’re kind of shocked, because we come in and want to get better every day, no matter how long the season is. Everybody is learning with each other and we got better as time went on. That’s how it is now."
It goes back to what I wrote about last year when the Thunder visited town. The Thunder had to embrace that challenge and live it even when the going got tough to get to where they are today. It didn't just happen. Right now, whether it's the fault of an organizational philosophy, its execution down on to the players or both, the Wizards are not doing the necessary things to lay a strong culture that fights through all the losing like the Thunder once did.
The Thunder simply didn't get to this point by accident. Hopefully, the Wizards understand that instead of thinking merely losing and grabbing a lot of high-lottery picks will automatically turn them into a contender down the road.