Disrespect. That's what Andre Roberson said he felt in this year's Western Conference finals.
Disrespect from the Golden State Warriors, who completely ignored him on defence. Disrespect that they figured he just wasn't worth guarding. Disrespect that could, potentially, now be the making of him.
Two-way players have really come to the fore in recent years with the likes of Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard establishing themselves as leaders of the pack. Roberson should now use those guys, along with the disrespect, as motivation and inspiration as he heads into the summer.
The defence is there for Roberson. Always has been. The offence, though, has been absent far more often than not.
Which is why it is not exactly a new concept for opposition teams to sit off Roberson when they face the Thunder. Inevitably, the defence has to give something up.
And better to give Roberson time and space than to give it to Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook. The two Thunder superstars can take a game away from you in an instant. Whereas Roberson is pretty much exclusively known for his defence above anything else.
Three years into his NBA career, however, it's now time for Roberson to bring some offence to the party. This season's Western Conference finals proved that.
GLIMPSES OF THE FUTURE?
In game one of the finals in the West against the Warriors, 3-of-3 shooting amounted to seven points for Roberson. In game two the Warriors' strategy worked perfectly as Westbrook struggled and Roberson only put up five points despite being completely ignored by the Warriors defence.
In meeting number three the game changed. Roberson was aggressive, and though he missed shots, he kept shooting given the freedom he was afforded. 13 points was the result and a 28-point Thunder win.
Game four was even better. 17 points from 58 percent shooting. The number of shots taken by Roberson increased with each game to this point. Still, not mind-blowing stats, but good signs for a player with such limited offence.
Game five then saw Roberson contribute just five points. Before the 24-year-old went 5-of-5, scoring eleven points in game six. Game seven was a total disaster all-around with Roberson scoring just four points from 2-of-11 shooting.
There were enough good moments, however, to encourage Roberson and the Thunder of what could be in the future. Glimpses of Roberson taking advantage and scoring the ball. Sometimes the three-point shot, sometimes drives to the basket. Whatever works.
But Roberson showed he can do it, if not consistently. That's where a summer of work can now come into play. Ultimately, the glimpses need to become more of a regular sighting.
AREA OF IMPROVEMENT
The Thunder have at the very least advanced to the Western Conference finals in four of the last six postseasons. Yet each time, they fall in the final stages. And then the inevitable fingers start pointing.
For a long time it was Westbrook who shouldered the blame. His decision-making was too erratic. He couldn't control and manage the game when it was on the line in fourth quarters and in decisive moments. He had to improve. And that's exactly what he did.
And although Westbrook is still erratic on occasions, for the most part, he manages and controls games much better now. It's by no means perfect. But, at this point, it's just an unfortunate downside to Westbrook that rears it ugly head only every now and then.
For his part, Durant (if he stays) remains one of the premier scorers in the NBA. Steven Adams is emerging as one of the best centers in the league. Whilst Serge Ibaka continues to be a fantastic defender who can step out and shoot a jump shot.
So the biggest area for improvement this offseason comes in the form of Roberson: a standout defender with an almost non-existent offensive game. Averages of 1.9, 3.4 and 4.8 points per game in his first three seasons in the league tell their own story.
That's why he was unguarded in the playoffs. That's why they ''disrespect'' him. Meanwhile, prolific scorers, Durant and Westbrook, are practically dripping in defenders each night. They earn that attention and respect. Not that they want it.
What this season should have taught Roberson and the Thunder most is that defence alone is not enough at the very highest level. Teams double-up on Durant and Westbrook because they can. Because Roberson doesn't, in their opinion, demand their attention. Not for any length of time, anyway.
Roberson has shown he can demand some respect for short spells. That he can be an important cog offensively at times. And that he can contribute in even more ways than he already does on occasions.
But will he now carry that on to the next level? And can he do it consistently? That's the key; consistency. If he does, then he will get the respect he wants. Undoubtedly. And maybe, just maybe, he can help the Thunder to the next level, too.