Never fear, loyal fight fans. We will return to the regularly-scheduled program in two weeks with more testosterone-filled angst than ever before.
But this week, we will break down fighting of a different nature. Namely, the Oklahoma City professional basketball team's fight for the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.
A cute narrative played out in round one. The Bearded One returned with his merry band of misfit players. The ready-made story line lent basketball writers the equivalent of a week off as far as forced storylines. This has to make Thunder insiders giddy.
So instead of regurgitating the same steaming pile of Ibaka-or-Harden-did-Presti-make-the-right-call dung, let's talk big picture.
By the time you read this, the Thunder will have dispatched or be on the cusp of eliminating the overmatched Houston Rockets. The second-round matchup against the Clippers or Grizzlies will be set. But this is foreplay.
The Thunder ran on cruise control this season and still earned the top seed in the Western Conference. No big deal.
But if our boys are to grab a spot in the finals and hoist the trophy, here is what needs to happen. Winners dig deep and find a little something extra when it counts.
Kevin Durant is the second-best player in the universe. Just stop saying it aloud. The "KD is not nice" marketing campaign looks downright nice compared to his quotes in Sports Illustrated. He's tired of being second, which is understandable for someone so full of awesome.
What do we need extra out of an extraordinary player? Rebounds. We need the best offensive player in the league to bang the boards with ferocity as long as he's on the court. No more getting pushed around by more physical players for crucial offensive rebounds. Attack the glass the same way you attacked the 50/40/90 season you just put in the books.
Some pundits call Serge Ibaka the key cog for the Thunder to compete in the finals in a seemingly preordained rematch with the Miami Heat. But he does need to show a little extra attention to detail: defensive rotations, confidence in his spot-up jumper, and a teensy bit more Serge nastiness, but not much.
And then there's poor Kendrick Perkins. When is the last time a starting center for a perennial championship-caliber team has taken so much crap from uneducated basketball fans? Up until the finals, we need extra rebounding prowess. Once the finals begin, we need extra bench time. He has no matchup against the likes of the Heat who play no center. Sorry.
Thabo Sefolosha is a perfect complement to the Russell and Kevin show. He attempted more three-pointers this year than any other season in his career. On the way to the NBA Finals, the Swiss Assassin needs to answer the call, keeping the shooter's mentality and making other teams pay for doubling off of him.
Nick Collison and Kevin Martin need to play like starters. They might earn 12 minutes one game and 30 minutes in the next. When they earn the minutes, they've got to play like they are their last. This message is especially important for Martin, who sometimes shies away from playmaking when inserted into the lineup alongside KD and Russ. Kevin can ball. His shot is as lethal as any in the league when he's feeling it. Feel it, Kevin Martin. Feel it.
And no one is quite sure if Derek Fisher is a feel-good story or not. He is definitely a story. We need extra bench time as the playoffs progress for Fisher. He couldn't guard me at this point, and defense is kind of important. If he averages more than eight minutes a game, someone better have a microphone in Scott Brooks' face.
Reggie Jackson is either the best- or worst-kept secret in the league. Every minute Fisher is on the court is a minute that Jackson should be, instead. He went from spending time with the Tulsa 66ers a year ago to being a dynamic, athletic, no-fear, balls-to-the-wall finisher.
He has a touch of Russell in him. If he could increase his productivity just a tad, this team could be unstoppable.
You didn't think we would gloss over Russell Westbrook, did you? He underwent successful surgery last week to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. My heart goes out to one of the fiercest competitors I've even seen take the court.
Westbrook is the kind of player who would win you one playoff game by himself and play above-average in at least two others. Then he would take the blame if your team lost. The whole team feels incomplete without him. Hell, the entire playoffs feel cheap without him. Something tells me this team will wear a little Westbrook on its sleeves (if they wore sleeves of course).
Which Thunder player will answer the bell? Someone will need to step up and carry the load and will this team to victory in a close game. KD will carry his fair share, but this is an opportunity for someone else to shine.
No matter what, though, it seems inconceivable for this version of the Thunder to make the NBA Finals, much less compete against presumptive opponent Miami Heat. Making the Finals would be a monumental upset.
Still, they will back down from no one. They will give the little extra hustle. And at the end of the season, no matter when that comes, everyone will stand and applaud the effort, because they will give us everything they've got.
It could be worse Thunder fans. At least we aren't pulling for the Lakers or Celtics.
Thunder Up! For Russell!
Share this article: