Winning means more than stats to OKC Thunder

JANUARY 22: Chris Paul #3 and Luguentz Dort #5 of the OKC Thunder talk during the game against the Orlando Magic (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
JANUARY 22: Chris Paul #3 and Luguentz Dort #5 of the OKC Thunder talk during the game against the Orlando Magic (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder are putting the team and winning above individual accolades. The way the players conducted themselves during and after the recent San Antonio Spurs game highlighted this.

There is a new lease of life for Chris Paul this season. He is balling out and the OKC Thunder has been the beneficiary of this. His plant-based diet is giving him the ability to do things he has not been able to do for a while like dunk the ball as seen in the All-Star game.

On top of this, there was no expectation on this team to even make the playoffs. Well, that was the feeling outside the organization anyway. It appears that all those who play for the OKC Thunder believed and they have followed the mantra laid out by coach Billy Donovan.

He spoke to each of his three guards, Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder, about what was expected of them as well as what sacrifices they needed to make. All three of them have bought in, sacrificed, and are better players as a result.

The buy-in also involves bench time. It is not often the star guards of the Thunder are able to rest as they have played 38 clutch games this season. Paul was sitting on the bench towards the end of the game, neither he or Donovan was aware that he needed one rebound for a triple-double.

This is the mentality of these two, win, don’t look at individual stats, just win as a team. This is rubbing off on the rest of the team too. Luguentz Dort is spending time away from the team to watch film and work on his fitness. He does this to not waste any of his 45 days by practicing with the team.

You can see that he is desperate to earn a full-time contract. He has full faith that the franchise will sign him when they need to. He is playing in the NBA, learning from Chris Paul and that is what counts to him.

It is this mentality, winning rather than numbers, which is going to take the OKC Thunder deeper into the playoffs than anyone expected at the start of the season. If you compare this to the mentality of the Houston Rockets, I know who I will have greater faith in.

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I can still remember when Austin Rivers went for a rebound in an effort to gain possession for his team.

As he makes his way down court you can see him upset with himself for taking the rebound off James Harden.

Harden needed one more rebound to get himself another triple-double. Even his teammates know how close Harden is to a triple-double during a game.

Surely this takes away some of the razor-sharp winning mentality required for a title.

If Schroder or Adams or any other player had of got the ball, Paul would have been happy that his team got the win. He would be the first to tell them that he did not care about the triple-double.

Next. Thunder Report Card as team enters stretch. dark

That is the mentality of a potential champion, let us hope it is this year.