I couldn't of said it better than Kevin Durant himself, Wow!
The OKC Thunder were set to enter the 2012-2013 season as the prohibitive favorites in the West. No one in their right mind had them anything lower than numero uno. The Lakers put together a starting five consisting of two former MVP's, two former Defensive Players of the year, all five are former All Stars and two are HOF bound.
Yet, the Thunder were on top.
The Clippers added depth unmatched in the Association. They have the best PG in the game, a PF who is a consistent jump shot away from being in the GOAT conversation at his position and a center who developed a dangerous low-post game over the Summer. One lunatic even went so far as to proclaim that the Clippers would best the Lakers this season! That lunatic didn't catapult the Clippers over the Thunder however.
I'm not THAT crazy!
Now however, well, the landscape has changed a bit. The giant blinked.
My dad used to tell me stories of how when he was a kid a truck would drive through the dirt roads in his neighborhood handing out free drinks. The thought of that today conjures up creepers, Dateline investigations and Jerry Sandusky, but back then it was actually OK. It was the best way to introduce a new product to kids - give it away for free!
Once those kids, my dad included, got a taste of the drink called "Coca Cola" he was hooked. Next time the truck came by, it wasn't free.
It was on the foundation of that clever marketing campaign that Coca Cola built a dynasty. They were soda. There were no challengers. Then Pepsi Cola came along and started their own clever marketing campaign. They pitched themselves as the next big thing. Coke was old and tired, Pepsi was hip and fresh. They even got Michael Jackson to pitch their product and set his hair on fire to make it extra dramatic.
Well, the fire thing was an accident, but Pepsi had Cokes attention.
Coke was still the undisputed king of cola's but they felt pressure so they moved to stay on top. The decided to change their formula and introduce "New Coke". That went about as well as MJ's Pepsi commercial, it bombed. The giant blinked and Pepsi swooped in.
Now, I'm not saying that the Thunder were feeling any pressure from the Lakers, Clippers or anyone else in the Association. They made this move for internal financial decisions and nothing else. The timing is odd however because they didn't HAVE to make the move now. They could have given the team, the consensus pick to win the West, one more run and still had control over Harden at years end when he would be an unrestricted free agent.
That's what most teams in the same position have done over the years.
The Thunder went in a different direction however. The Thunder opted to avoid any distraction about his pending agency this season and settled matters now. The Thunder set a budget with no budge and when Harden wanted more, he was let go. The Thunder set a hard-line. The Thunder blinked.
Despite the odd move, the Thunder still go into the season as the favorites. Their perch however is a few Jenga blocks short now and very wobbly. No, I won't say the Clippers are favored over them, again, I'm not THAT crazy, but its impossible to not see the opportunity. The Clippers took three out of four from the Thunder last season with Harden. Must analyst (me included) see the Thunder as weaker now defensively as well as because of the hit to team chemistry.
Each season, each team, heck even each game is unique but if the Clippers matched up that well before with OKC, don't they have a bigger advantage now? I say they do.
The Thunder are still kings of the West, but its impossible to deny that they blinked and left an opening for a team under the radar to knock them off their perch this season. The Clippers are in as good a position as any to be that team.