After The NBA Shut Down In OKC, Thunder Ready For Season Restart In Orlando


Friday, July 31st 2020, 12:15 am
By: Steve McGehee


ORLANDO, Fla. -

It's been a season like no other for the Thunder.

Our guys in blue, white, sunset and sometimes gray and gold started the season against the Jazz in Salt Lake City.

It always comes back to the Utah Jazz.

The team started to gel quickly with Chris Paul as the floor general and newcomer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander under his wing. With Sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari, Center Steven Adams and other role players stepping up, the Thunder were hard to stop.

The team pushed through the season. Everything was normal. But COVID-19 was gaining ground in the U.S. in January and into February.

The team was 40-24 and was on a three-game winning streak.

“I remember being so ready to go,” Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Fired up, completely warmed up.”

And then, the postponement heard round the world.

Oklahoma City was back in the national spotlight as Utah Jazz All-Star Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.

I was the only local reporter stuck inside the arena. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

The NBA season was suspended.

“I was running hills, lifting weights every day,” Thunder forward Terrance Ferguson said. “I was even doing pool workouts.”

Life as we knew it turned upside down.

“Just social stuff is really bizarre,” Thunder center Steven Adams said. “I don’t know how you feel about it but going in for a handshake with someone is very, very sketchy.”

“When the shutdown happened, everybody was obviously nervous,” Thunder guard Chris Paul said. “Then most guys got back to their respective families.”

Days and months went by. Eventually, the NBA and other sports began working on plans to return to action. The NBA decided in early June that games could safely resume in a controlled environment in Orlando.

Players, who hadn't been together in months, moved into the bubble.

“It’s not that hard,” Adams said. “It’s not that difficult. We’re living in a bloody resort.”

Practices picked back up and players adjusted to life in the bubble.

“It is just amazing compared to the situation I have lived, traveling all around the world,” Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari said.

“I read the bible a lot. I talked to friends and family on the phone,” Thunder forward Darius Bazley said.

The Thunder will play eight regular season games, called seeding games, and then the playoffs.

“It’s been pretty intense here and these guys have done a good job handling it all,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

The goal? That's the one thing that hasn't changed since the beginning of the season: to win a championship.

“We got such a great group of guys,” Paul said. “Very unselfish, play hard, play together. The more time we get here playing, remembering the stuff we like to do together, it will all take care of itself.”