DALLAS — This season’s Oklahoma City Thunder roster has a much different look than in years past.
A big part of that is due to the offseason departure of Kevin Durant to Golden State in free agency. But OKC also traded Serge Ibaka to Orlando in June, a deal which netted the Thunder Ersan Ilyasova, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Along with Sabonis, son of former NBA great Arvydas Sabonis, Oladipo, 24, who is about to enter his fourth season in the Association, is the most interesting name of that trio. For those who have forgotten, Oladipo was the second pick in the 2013 NBA Draft who averaged 16 points and a career-best 4.8 rebounds over 72 games last season. Problem was he was languishing in relative anonymity with some terrible Orlando teams and has yet to taste the postseason.
Being traded is a completely new experience for the Indiana product, but Oladipo has felt welcome in OKC almost immediately.
“Think I’m fitting in pretty well. It’s been good so far. Just getting used to the players, getting used to the concepts and things like that, but it’s good to be around good people,” Oladipo said on Tuesday.
Over 224 career games, the ex-Hoosier is averaging 15.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and four assists per game.
And with KD now a Warrior, Durant’s former teammate, Russell Westbrook, is now undoubtedly the biggest name on the Thunder roster and this is clearly his team, so it makes sense that Oladipo has focused on developing a relationship with No. 0 almost since arriving in the Sooner State.
“I think it [our relationship] is getting there, know what I mean? Think he’s starting to stand me a little bit,” Oladipo joked with a big smile on his face. “It’s great, man, so far. We actually hung out a lot this summer, working out and stuff like that, so we just got to continue to keep growing, keep building that chemistry.”
When asked how his on-court chemistry is developing with Oladipo, Westbrook merely said they were still “figuring it out.”
But the veteran guard and perennial NBA All-Star has liked what he has seen thus far and has been quite impressed with one particular ability his new teammate possesses.
“Just his ability to learn and be able to pick up things quick [is what’s impressed me most thus far],” Westbrook said. “Obviously, he knows how to play the game. We’re going to be able to work off each other and he has an ability to score the basketball at a high level. He can do it, just being able to do it every night is the biggest thing.”
Of course, this is Oladipo’s first time playing with Westbrook, someone who has a reputation around the league that can be best characterized as contentious.
But “Vic” never put much stock into what he read in the press about his new teammate. Instead, he decided to make up his own mind about what Russ is truly like on and off the floor.
“A lot of people have opinions about him, but at the end of the day, opinions are just things that we can’t control,” Oladipo said. “And there are people’s ideas of what they really don’t know. I’ve always been a fan of Russ’, so it’s fun actually teaming up with him to try to do something special.”
However, one thing which Oladipo had no misconceptions about was what a great organization he was coming into. Around the league, OKC has a reputation for being a truly first-class organization, one which takes great care of its players and an operation which fosters an environment to put them in the best possible position to succeed.
And like most of his NBA brethren, that’s a setting he wanted to be part of.
“No [nothing’s surprised me about the organization], I used to hear from the outside looking in how great of a program it was, first class and how they take everything with such great seriousness and things like that,” Oladipo said. “To actually be a part of it now and realize all those things weren’t just rumors is a surreal experience and I’m glad to be here.”