As the Thunder’s most seasoned veteran, the only player in his 30s and the only roster member with more than six years of NBA service, Mo Peterson has quickly become the butt of jokes in the locker room and on the practice court.
Guard Morris Peterson is trying to impart some veteran wisdom to his younger Thunder teammates.
“James (Harden) said this is my 20th year in the league,” Peterson confessed. “He teases me a little bit.”
During a one-on-one drill Wednesday, Peterson put together a series of moves that took some time to develop but ended in a score nonetheless. Kevin Durant, with a wide-stretching smile, promptly declared, “That’s that old man game.”
“I expect some of those jokes,” Peterson said.
But Peterson, 33, has acquired his share of wisdom in his “old age.” His most recent lesson, one he picked up at his last stop with New Orleans, is one in which his young teammates should find value.
Peterson was the starting shooting guard for the Hornets team that took the league by storm in 2007-08, winning a franchise record 56 games and coming within a win of reaching the Western Conference Finals. The Hornets were projected to be on pace for a title but won seven fewer games the next season and were embarrassingly ousted from the playoffs in the first round by Denver. New Orleans is still trying to pick up the pieces.
“We went from being the hunter to the hunted. We kind of snuck up on people,” Peterson said. “And last year, I don’t think people expected Oklahoma to do what they did. (Going from) the hunter to the hunted, you’re always going to have a target on your back. You’re not going to be able to sneak up on anybody.
“And I think we learned a lesson about that when I was in New Orleans. Every team has injuries, so I’m not going to make that as an excuse. But that’s something I can pass on to this team to always keep us hungry. Let them know that if they thought what we did last year was good, we can’t be fat and sassy and get complacent.”
How well the Thunder is able to focus following a small taste of success could be a defining key to this season. The team won 50 games a year ago and came within a last-second tip-in of forcing a seventh game in its first-round series against the Lakers. Suddenly, the Thunder has become the darling of the NBA, with the national media wasting no opportunity to declare how dangerous this team is.
Peterson, though, remembered how everything became more magnified with the Hornets. Games grew more important. Expectations skyrocketed. The notch on general outside noise was turned up.
“It’s just a lot of different things that’s going on, and it can be distractions or you could choose to use that as a positive.”
Fortunately for the Thunder, there are at least a few elder statesmen to squash any potential cockiness and correctly steer player’s psyches this season.
“There’s been a lot of teams in the history of the league who have had a really good year and teams that have been projected to continue to rise,” said Nick Collison, who turns 30 on Oct. 26 and is the team’s second oldest player. “And for whatever reason that didn’t happen. It happened to me personally. My rookie year we won the division. We had almost everybody back and for whatever reason we never got back there.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said the potential for backsliding “hasn’t crossed his mind,” adding that he doesn’t think it will be an issue so long as his players work hard and prepare well.
“In this league, if you don’t respect it, it hits you and kicks you and throws you out,” Brooks said. “You have to respect it every day. It’s tough to get wins in this league. You don’t just step on the floor and get a win. I don’t care how talented of a team you have.”
Here’s a look back at my first ever YouTube video that I filmed at the NBA All-Star game two years ago.