We’re in San Antonio to face the Spurs tonight. Whenever I’m here, inevitably, the conversation turns to my shot in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals.
Honestly, it’s not something that comes to my mind on its own very often. If it weren’t for others bringing it up, I probably wouldn’t think about it much. I obviously remember it and recall it, but that’s not really the play I hang my hat on. We won that game and we won that series, but we didn’t win a championship that year. So I don’t get that emotional about that particular shot.
I still get booed when I come down here though, so I guess the fans remember it.
The play itself was birthed out of pure madness. It was a game we were almost completely in control of for most of the game. We were up by 17 points at one point. But we let that lead slowly dissipate until we found ourselves down by one with 0.4 seconds to go in the game.
Looking back, the falling-down, fadeaway shot that Tim Duncan made before mine was, I think, harder than the one I hit. Shaq played amazing defense, and forced him to take a really difficult shot. I don’t think anybody, including Tim, could reproduce it. That’s how difficult that shot was.
Going into the timeout after Tim’s shot, my mind was racing. I was thinking to myself, “OK. We still have a chance to win this game. Something can happen.” But at the same time, I was super frustrated with how we even got ourselves into that position.
But I didn’t give up on the game. I still felt like something crazy could happen. So I was trying to focus in on what Phil Jackson was saying during the timeout. You just have to play the game until there are zeroes on the clock. Obviously, I didn’t know what was about to happen, but that’s just always the way I played the game.
It’s interesting to think about though. Tim’s shot probably would’ve lived on in NBA lore forever had I not made the shot I made. It’s just another example of how quickly things change. In life. In sports. In everything.
One split second can change your life.
A DIFFERENT FEEL
This season in Oklahoma City has been unique because it’s the first season that I’ve been a member of the Thunder from the start of training camp.
It’s been fun to go through the process with the guys from the start. It adds another level of appreciation for what I’ve been able to experience over the course of my career. This is the way it’s supposed to feel. This is the way it felt for a very long time for me. So I’m happy to be going through that process again this season.
Getting the chance to work together on a daily basis, working together in practice and playing in 82 games before the playoffs — when you go through those things together, it strengthens your connective tissue as a team, and the bond that you have. Guys understand more about me and the things I’m capable of doing for our team as a player through just being able to work together for a longer period of time.
Every team dynamic is different, and the individual players on those teams are different. You have to be able to read those situations, and understand who you’re working with and how those players like to handle themselves. Kevin and Russell are the primary leaders in terms of their performance, their personalities, and the energy that they bring to the team.
Since I came here to Oklahoma City the first time, at the back end of that 2012 season, I’ve always been very observant about picking my spots to say certain things, how to say them and being a complementary player and a supporting leader to this group of guys. My perspective in that regard hasn’t changed much since camp. I’m trying to evolve and find ways — not just to be that veteran leader, and help bring some wisdom and experience as far as being a locker room presence, but to make a positive impact and contributions on the court as a high level player.
Obviously, being a guy who is 39 years old (and in this business is considered to be way past his prime), working hard, remaining healthy and being able to play an entire season healthy is something I value. It’s a way of proving to people who 10 years ago were calling me old that I’m still working hard, and still able to play well.
As a group, we’re continuing to grasp the level of consistency that’s really required to be the best. That doesn’t always mean you end up with the best record, but it’s the things that you need to do to be able to win 32 out of 42 games. Doing that requires a high level of focus, concentration, discipline, commitment to the team and attention to detail. Those are things that the core of this team have learned how to do better and better each season.
Even with having Russell in and out of the lineup, we’ve still been able to find a very high level of consistent performance. That’s tough to do in pro sports. But we still feel like we haven’t reached our ceiling, and we’re trying to keep getting better.