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Tank Diaries: Tank, Tank and Tank, Tank, Tank

The end of the season is no place for respectability. What the Thunder need now are losses.

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I knew this guy in college whose favorite movie was The Break-Up. Vaughn. Aniston. Lemons. Directed by On Cinema at the Cinema’s Peyton Reed, the film made over [spills coffee] $205 million worldwide and won Aniston and Vaughn the coveted Choice Chemistry award at the 2006 Teen Choice Awards. It was Vaughn’s first TCA and Aniston’s fourth. They have since each won one more. Him for Choice Activist in 2010. Her, another Choice Chemistry W, this time with Adam Sandler in 2011’s Just Go with It.

The Break-Up is a real Golden Corral of a movie, something for everyone. Cole Hauser plays a character named Lupus. There’s a Peter Billingsley sighting. Vincent D’Onofrio says, “We’re taking it to the squids.” It has it all.

The guy who loved The Break-Up never called it just The Break-Up. A movie this special, he had to add some stuff. Three words weren’t enough. He needed more. And so, no matter the situation, no matter the context, no matter the audience, he called it “The dark comedy The Break-Up.” So it would be, “Excuse me, ladies, have you seen the dark comedy The Break-Up?” Or, “The best film I’ve ever seen is the dark comedy The Break-Up.” Or, “Yeah, sex is good, but have you ever seen the dark comedy The Break-Up?” I also heard that one time he stood outside a party for hours screaming “Come to the decadent sin” at everyone arriving. A great time, this guy. Last I heard he was thinking of running for office.

The Break-Up has kept popping up in my mind recently. Jon Favreau’s doing a little. Justin Long’s doing a lot. John Michael Higgins is doing the most. Higgins is turned up to 12, leaving it all on the field. He plays Aniston’s brother, Ricky. Early on in the film, there’s a dinner scene with the Grobowski (Vaughn) and Meyer (Aniston) families that has Higgins coaxing both groups into an a cappella version of Yes’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” You might remember this better as the scene with “And Gary on the kick drum. Come, come. On the kick drum.” Higgins makes his way around the dinner table doling out vocal assignments until he gets to Mrs. Grobowski, the matriarch of the Grobowski household. The reason I’ve been thinking about this movie: Once at her side, Higgins asks that Mrs. Grobowski “tank, tank, and tank, tank, tank.” The internet is a spectacular disaster of ideas so of course within its walls there exists a video featuring over 10 minutes of Higgins tank, tank, tanking. The top of the scene is still there in the clip. No clue why. Seems like if you’re going to go there, just make the entire thing the tank, tank, tanking. I shouldn’t complain. Something good exists. Why get mad that it’s not great? Either way, I know no better soundtrack for these days. I skipped ahead for you, because your time matters.

I sing that every Thunder game. For four quarters, all 48 minutes, till the buzzer sounds, on a loop, a song with no end—and tank, tank and tank, tank, tank, and tank, tank and tank, tank, tank …

I’ve abandoned my desires for even respectability at this point. The tank’s in full view, in the high beams, wrapped in Christmas lights, awash in neon. Why disguise it with close games? Before it was, “Let’s lose but make it look good. Something close, understated.” Now, forget it. No such thing as a bad loss.

A heartfelt thanks to the Pacers for the decimation last Saturday. Appreciate y’all holding off on your implosion until after you played us. “Decimation” might not even cut it. Indiana won by 57. The final was 152-95, which seems pretend. That’s the most points scored in a single game in the history of the Pacers franchise and the worst loss ever for the Thunder. It was an undoing. They vaporized us. And thank you, may I have another?

Really, league, do your worst. Please. I am Cousin Greg. “I can take a lot in terms of psychological pain.”

Truly, leave no doubt. Nothing to chance. Fifty-seven-point losses end. Championship droughts can too, but only with lions in the mix. I don’t need Dort taking some in-rhythm 3, down four with 30 seconds left. I don’t need squeakers. I need beatdowns. Throw dirt in my face and run me over with your car. Give me 57-point shellackings from here on out. I do not care. Better those than some unintentional nail-biter vs. the Kings. With nail-biters, anything can happen. And I don’t want anything to happen. I want to lose.

Earlier this season, I was picky. “Yeah, a loss is great, that’s what I want, but at least give me something positive to leave with. Give me Dort for 20 and three Poku plays I can overreact to. Give me Shai bangaranging and Kenny hustling. Give me a missed 3 down five with under 15 seconds left and a tremendous seven-to-nine-point loss. And, again, I’d rather not win, but it’s not the end of the world if we do. These are things to build on. After all, the young guys need to experience some success.”

What an idiot. I need nothing positive. Destroy me, other teams. Napalm my heart. Erase my dreams. Leave me with only the memory of pain. We’re resilient. We’ll work our way back to winning. But for real, go nuts. I’m honestly thinking of you, too, when I say this. It would be embarrassing to lose to the Thunder in one of these last five games. As I type it, the word embarrassing feels harsher than I want it to. In many cases, the individual components of what’s left of this Thunder team are not bad. There are several third-or-fourth-man-off-the-bench-on-a-decent-team types. A lot of the guys playing during this woe-filled second half of the season have some ability.

For instance, after consulting with my homer heart, I am ready to publicly declare that Ty Jerome is good. The passing is colorful. The shooting is real. Since the All-Star break he’s hitting 43 percent of his 3s on five attempts a game. He’s getting awfully comfortable from beyond 25 feet and his trigger’s quick. Sometimes he’s even effective driving it? There are these one-footed runners, long-distance-layup kind of things, where he jumps off his outside foot and banks it in over two sets of arms. It seems lucky the first time he does it but it keeps happening. He’ll get hunted like a deer if he plays in the playoffs but he tries hard and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. There are others. Isaiah Roby has quietly taken his personal-item-sized bag and exchanged it for a roomier carry-on. I already talked about the hustling. Thankfully, the combination of parts here have not combined for team success.

It’s odd to be in a position where, when you read or hear your favorite team is bad, your response is only happiness. Insults can’t stick to you. I hear someone say, “The lineups they’re throwing out there are a joke,” and I’m like, “Yeah, they are! Funny jokes, too! You go, lineups!” I hear, “How can they get away with this? They’re just not playing Horford? How is this allowed? The Spurs get reprimanded for less. You know you’d be pissed if it was some other team doing this.” To that I go full Dark Knight interrogation scene. I’m Ledger, hooting and hollering, scream-laughing at Bale. “You have nothing! Nothing to threaten me with! Nothing to do with all your strength!”

In the fifth volume of deez here diaries, I mentioned the Thunder had been linked to a 6-foot-8 Argentine bottle rocket named Gabriel Deck. There were reports that they intended to sign him. At the time, I wrote:

After the loss to the Cavs last night, the Thunder waived Darius Miller so they could reportedly sign Gabriel Deck, a 26-year-old Argentine forward from Real Madrid. They’re bringing him over, inked him for three years. I don’t know much about Deck. I know Manu is a fan. So was Kobe. So much so he tried to get him to come to the Lakers. … As of 11:56 p.m. central time on Thursday night, I have watched 2.5 Deck mixtapes and when he screams, the veins in his neck bulge. He has a tortoise tattoo near his right elbow. His nickname is Tortuga. And I’m falling in love again.

Couple things. One, I’m a jackass. His nickname is Tortu. I got that wrong immediately. Please don’t hate me, Argentina. Those who know me well know I have always championed Luis Scola. For his hair and his up-and-unders. I’m on your side. Second, Oklahoma City signed him. Deck, I mean. Not Scola, though that would be awesome. Tortu signed for four years, $14.5 million. The last three years of the deal are non-guaranteed. He’ll make a little over $3.8 million this year for 10 games. When the season ends, he will have been a member of the organization for a little more than a month.

I’ve watched more Deck now. Five whole games! His NBA debut was April 29 against the Pels. Checked in and had to guard Zion right off the bat. When Deck was on the floor, he was pretty much on either Zion or Brandon Ingram. There’s throwing someone into the fire and there’s throwing someone into an active volcano. He handled himself well enough, or as well as someone could be expected to, in his 14 1/2 minutes of play. Minutes have jumped around from there. Twenty-three minutes one game. Eighteen the next. Sixteen the next. In keeping with the term of the season for the Thunder, Deck is probably the player they are currently most interested in exploring. Because the second half of this season has been hilarious, he is somehow not the shortest-tenured member of the Thunder. That honor goes to Charlie Brown Jr., a real player and not a bit.

Through the Deck exploration—Decksploration? Yuck, I hate it—we’ve been privy to flashes.

He’s out and about. He’s doing stuff. Whatever you need, he’s got. He’s out on the break, driving, pulling up off the bounce. He’s taking young men to the block and suggesting they hit the weight room. He puts his shoulder into chests, makes them shake.

He even has some razzle.

Deck plays like someone who got their first tattoo at 10, started smoking cigarettes at 11, drove a motorcycle to school at 12, and swam the English Channel at 13. Who’s to say what he will become, but right now he’s someone to be excited about at the end of the season, someone fresh to dream on, someone new to watch. He is able to take your mind off the blowout of it all for a little while. And the flashes have been nice. It’s good to have another guy capable of flash. The King of the Flashes is already on the roster. He smells like money and looks made up. And we soar on wings like eagles and fly away to nirvana.



We’ll get to the basketball in a minute but I’d first just like to start with a brief moment of turtleneck.

The Sweater Lord is here, fazers on stun. The haters are apoplectic. Up in arms over the sheer amount of sauce.

My sweet Poku has played only one game since last week’s installment. Left knee contusion. The thing about knees is they are by far the biggest party poopers on the body. If we accept that Dwight was correct when he said, “The eyes are the groin of the head,” then I contend the knees are the groin of the legs. Real nasty pieces of work, these nobs. Just do your job. Is that too much to ask? Poku sat against Indiana, Sacramento, and Golden State. He played against Phoenix because when the no. 2 team in the league (!) comes to town, you take the cover off the Lambo and do donuts on the interstate. In total, he logged 10 minutes. Ten minutes, then his stupid knee dropped trou and took a dump on everyone’s happiness. Some dumb person out there might think, “10 measly minutes? How are we going to get anything good when he plays for only 10 minutes?” Well look upon the sparkles below. Fate has him highly skilled and loaded with talent.

With around three minutes left in the second quarter, he tried to produce another blockbuster. Drove middle from the right wing and tossed some left-handed, off-the-bounce, over-the-head nonsense pass to Roby in the corner. To see the pass was wild. To try the pass was wilder. It almost worked. And right now almost is enough.

These plays, done at this height. It’s like how Action Bronson is a good painter or Seth Rogen makes cool vases. These things don’t make sense together, but you stare at them for a while, and you stop caring about whatever preconceived ideas you might have had. The ability is clear.

As of today, the Thunder sit at a lovely 21-46 with a handful of games left to play. They have the fourth-worst record in the league and, per The Ringer’s NBA Odds Machine, a 12 percent chance at the top pick, a 59 percent chance at one in the top five, and a 22 percent chance for the I Run Naked Into the Street Special, a.k.a the Thunder get two top-five picks. They’re currently tied in the loss column with Minnesota, which has the third-worst record in the league, and the Thunder are only one game back (again, in the loss column) from Detroit, which is all alone at two. For reasons beyond my comprehension, the Pistons decided it was a good idea to win Thursday night against the Griz. Troy Weaver continues to be valuable to the Thunder organization even after his departure. Houston is, sadly, out of reach in the 1-spot. They have tanked so hard and I am honestly so jealous. But getting to the second-worst record doesn’t really matter. The bottom three all have the same odds, the same shot at no. 1. Just get to three.

It’s a real Golden Corral of a situation, endless possibilities. And my want list is long at the moment. I want the Spurs to lose. I want the Pels to lose. Another way to say it, I want the Kings to keep having things to play for. They’re still within mathematical striking distance of the 10-seed. Let’s keep it that way. I want the win over the Celtics to not have happened. If we hadn’t messed around and won that game, we’d be a half-game behind the Wolves, third from the bottom already, but noooooo, we have to go and try!

I’ve never cared about so many teams. I want the Pistons to win. I want the Wolves to win. I want the Cavs to win. I want the Magic to win. There’s a non-zero chance Cole Anthony’s game-winners have made me happier than his father, Greg. Give him the ball, Steve! You want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the year. End on a roar, not a whimper. You have a lion already. You have Cole Anthony. Don’t disrespect your fans. Not every team has the option to end its season on a win. You do. What a luxury! What a gift to give a fan base! Don’t mess it up.

I’m deeply invested in games no self-respecting person would want to watch. Wolves-Magic on May 9? I’ll be there. Wolves-Pistons on May 11? I’ll be there with bells on. Those two matchups will go a long way in deciding who’s in the bottom three on lotto night. It doesn’t matter to me what happens in either game. Work that out amongst yourselves. I don’t care who wins, just make sure one of y’all do. As for the Thunder, let’s end strong by ending weak. Let’s go out there and give it our almost. Let’s go through the motions. Let’s tank, tank and tank, tank, tank.

Tyler Parker is a writer from Oklahoma.