The plane landed from a gray sky into a gray land. Rain, shadow, cold concrete and dreary farmland -- this was Oklahoma City as the start of the NBA season inched closer.
Still, just a short drive from the airport, through all the melancholy an Oklahoma winter can throw at a man, one of the game's best players practiced himself into a fine sweat with a group of teammates capable of making a championship run.
And that, as much as any other storyline in an NBA season jam-packed with them, could shape the fate of the Western Conference between now and June.
The key fact for the Oklahoma City Thunder is this one: They have created a culture based on Midwestern values like togetherness, teamwork and humility best personified by the fact that Kevin Durant isn't just playing in Oklahoma City -- he's excited about it.
In an NBA that's more than ever about the glitz and glamour of brighter cities attracting the brightest talent there's still an oasis of normal holding...