The Last Thing the Internet Needs Now

Crappy New Year, Everyone
December 31, 2008, 12:43 am
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I’m sorry, I feel like being a bitch and saying I TOLD YOU SO. The post is called “Are Six On the Way Out?” Scroll past the trade stuff and read the bullet points … although the trade stuff isn’t really surprising either, except for Desmond Mason’s name being kicked about in trade speculation. But … but … he’s an OSU Cowboy! He’s one of us (even if his college days are now really really really small in the rearview mirror, and he’s not really “one of us” since he was born in Waxahatchie, Texas.

I can’t say I enjoy seeing the Thunder get absolutely clowned on ESPN every night (that is, if ESPN bothers to even show highlights of whatever team the Thunder is playing against) because, in the eyes of some, by clowning the Thunder, by extenstion you also clown Oklahoma City (I don’t feel that way, but I know a few people that do. I thought Oklahoma as a whole has clowned itself pretty badly by turning extra extra red, but this isn’t a political post). You had to know that this wasn’t going to be a picnic — or instant respect for Oklahoma’s capital city. I hate to say it but OKC has had it coming given how the Thunder — once the Seattle Supersonics* — got here.

Let’s face it. The only sport that the majority of Oklahomans still care about is OU Sooners football — which itself has a lot to prove in the BCS Championship Game in a week against Florida. Did the owners of the Thunder (at least one of whom is a bigtime donor to his alma mater) think they’d really undo generation upon generation of college football love by bringing NBA basketball here?

What were they thinking?


*Footnote: This post is quite old and assumes an Oklahoma City team would play in the Southwest Division. The Thunder, in fact, are still part of the Northwest Division despite the fact they are now geographically nowhere near the Northwest. But neither are division rivals Denver and Minnesota. The NBA — Where Geographical Confusion Happens, I suppose.

So, How’s That “Big League City” Stuff Going For You?
November 28, 2008, 7:23 pm
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They’re 1-15 (as of this writing, November 28), with a 13-game losing streak. Their new fans have actually booed them. At this moment they appear to be the laughingstock of the association that brings us Not Basketball Anymore. How do you like them apples, Oklahoma City? So far every time the Thunder (!) gets mentioned on ESPN, they’re being shown getting humiliated, pwned, insert your favorite negative adjective here, whether its by the lowly LA Clippers (one of the worst teams in the Western Conference) or the contending Cleveland Cavaliers (a game in which LeBron James was only needed for about 17 minutes). And given the circumstances of how the team wound up in Oklahoma City, it isn’t like the Thunder are going to be lovable losers like the Cubbies (or even pathetic losers like the NFL’s Detroit Lions). Was this what everybody had in mind when they wanted to do this to raise Oklahoma City’s profile beyond it being that city with the tornadoes?

And not surprisingly, this is music to the ears of embittered Seattle Supersonics fans (and some of us Oklahomans who didn’t like the idea of taking Seattle’s 41-year old NBA franchise, moving it to a significantly smaller media market and rebranding it in horrifically bad fashion). Can you blame them? There is a lot of blame to go around in the saga of the final days of the Seattle Supersonics, but not everybody in Oklahoma wanted a bunch of big money men to up and buy the Sonics and exploit what had become a toxic political situation to their advantage — which is what they did, plain and simple. The ones who REALLY got screwed in this deal — as always — are the FANS in Seattle.

I don’t blame Seattle fans for being bitter, nor do I blame them for laughing at Oklahoma City at damn near every turn (provided they understand that not all Oklahomans wanted this, and some Oklahomans are Blue instead of brainwashed), and nor do I blame them for the thoroughly hateful feelings they have for Clay Bennett and the ownership group, and for NBA Commissioner David Stern — a man who has been wearing out his welcome as the head of the league for some time now. In a time of economic downturn I can’t help but feel a little bit of glee at watching very rich men start feeling the pinch in their wallets.

Between Oklahoma being The Reddest State in the Union and the home of The Worst Team in the NBA, what’s a filthy dirty liberal that loves sports to do? Even the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards, at 2-11 and also playing under an interim head coach, are slightly more fortunate. The only difference between DC and Oklahoma City is that everybody knows what place you’re talking about when you say “DC.” When you say “Oklahoma City,” people still go “huh?” And hey, gotta rub salt in the wounds of the McCain/Palin groupies one more time: DC is Barack Obama‘s future residence. Suck it Pubs.

But maybe the ownership group realizes (if they are in this for the long haul and this really isn’t just a plaything they can use to curry favor from the rest of the state and to just hear “OKC” on ESPN every night, regardless of context), they have to actually make it successful on the court in order to breed success off the court. They fired head coach PJ Carlesimo (a somewhat overdue move) after the first game of a home-and-home against the New Orleans Hornets (the team Oklahoma City put up and fell in love with for two seasons following Katrina), and did so under a midnight cloak before flying to New Orleans for the second game of the home-and-home. Oh yeah, and that Friday night game was a nationally televised beatdown of the highest order. I’m not sure the Thunder will have an opportunity to be nationally televised the rest of the season (while NBA broadcast schedules can change over the course of a season, it doesn’t happen that much).

To be fair, it’s still too early to assess what kind of impact interim head coach Scott Brooks will have on this team. To his credit, he’s younger than Carlesimo, maybe this is just me but players seem to relate better to guys who actually PLAYED in the NBA as Brooks did (as opposed to Carlesimo, who hasn’t suited up for a game since 1971 at Fordham). There has been some positive reax/speculation about Brooks moving Kevin Durant back to his natural position (small forward), but it’s still a little too early to see what difference that’ll make. Desmond Mason has yet to play a game with Brooks running the show (sprained elbow — he is coming off the bench tonight versus Minnesota). Little things like that may make a difference at the season wears on.

Thre is still a lot of season left. We’ll see.

(Before I actually hit the PUBLISH button, I might mention that at halftime, the Thunder are leading the Timberwolves 48-44. Minnesota is the only team the Thunder have beaten this season. So perhaps they’ll be 2-15 by the end of tonight. Doesn’t change the fact there’s still a lot of work to do in OKC).

“They’re Gonna Suck Hard, But They Have a Bright Future!” — Looking At the OKC Thunder
October 25, 2008, 2:21 pm
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“Thunder” is the result of expanding air within and around a bolt of lightning. And assuming you’re mind-controlled by the all-knowing, all seeing oracle, the only thunder that means anything in Oklahoma City (other than the kind that Gary England and Rick Mitchell scare everybody to death about) is the NBA team that was relocated (more like hijacked) from the Pacific Northwest and used to be known as the Seattle Supersonics.

Yeah, they’re Oklahoma City’s problem now. Sure the fans will come out — the franchise sold out its season tickets in about the time it takes to get down Interstate 35 from OKC to Norman in thick rush hour traffic and with multiple lanes closed due to road construction. And this was at the same time when most of the state was gearing up for another season of gridiron glory from the Sooners and Cowboys. One wonders what affect the Thunder will have on Sooners basketball (some pundits have chosen the Sooners as preseason #1 in the Big 12 and have the best returning player in the conference, Blake Griffin) and Cowboys basketball (being coached by somebody Not Named Sutton for the first time since … uhh … a long time).

How patient will the relatively new NBA fans of Oklahoma City — now with a team of their very own — be with a team that last season as the Supersonics only won 20 games (but had Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant) — all extenuating circumstances aside, because I really don’t want to get into it anymore because even though I’m trying in my own cranky way to play along with it, it doesn’t change my feelings about how it all went down — I still don’t like it, but there’s a team here now, and maybe it’s time to look at them as a basketball team and not as either a political hot potato, a mogul’s toy or an excuse to hear “Oklahoma” mentioned in the media without it being associated with search terms like “college football,” “tornado,” “Sally Kern,” or “dogs.”

It’s now the cusp of the 2008-2009 Not Basketball Anymore season, my five faithful readers. Let’s take us a look at some of the season previews out there: (general preview) (John Hollinger analysis)

… they are going to take more lumps. In order to set up their future, they’re operating as a glorified expansion team; fortunately for them, the folks in Oklahoma are likely to fill the arena every night anyway to welcome the state’s first major league pro sports team. (No, the Outlaws don’t count, and yes, this shatters my record for USFL references in a column).

That may give the Okies enough of a home-court advantage to steal a few extra wins, especially since this team is going to play hard. They did last season even while getting their brains beat in, and with all the hustling defensive types they’ve acquired in the past two drafts, they should only redouble their efforts.

Sports Illustrated (opposing team scouting analysis)  Sports Illustrated (season preview)

The new fan base had best understand that, beyond Durant, there’s not much O in Oklahoma.

Ball Don’t Lie (Yahoo! Sports)

The Thunder are going to be horrible this year. Kevin Durant still can’t buy beer, the roster is young, and the 492 draft picks GM Sam Presti has accrued have yet to be cashed in. Things are A-OK, though.

Presti’s obviously planning for the future, and he’s doing it the right way. The Thunder have a slim payroll (that could get even slimmer should they trade Chris Wilcox or Joe Smith’s expiring contract), they really do have a ton of first and second round picks coming down the pike, and Durant is so young that it hardly seems smart to try and rush things.


Presti is a general manager, but his business card should read: Hustler. He has assembled long-term talent in Durant, Green, and Westbrook and guys with reasonable contracts that other teams covet in Collison, Watson, and Smith. He also has a knack for coming out of trades with added draft picks and improved cap position.

Look no further than Kurt Thomas’s dealings last season. Presti agreed to take Thomas’s cumbersome contract off Phoenix’s hands, as long as Phoenix included two draft picks. He then turned around and flipped Thomas to the Spurs on the verge of their playoff run, acquiring yet another pick.

Even though most of these guys (except Desmond Mason and Joe Smith, acquired via offseason trades) wore Seattle green-and-gold last season, the Thunder — as ESPN’s John Hollinger says — are like an expansion team, and expansion teams in any league will toddle around for a few years and get their baby heads stomped by jackboots night after night until miraculously something comes together and they figure it all out and grow up. At least Major League Baseball seems to have figured it out, either that or there’s something in the water in Florida, Arizona, and Colorado.

The additions of Mason (who obviously is familiar to Oklahomans) and Smith (a well-traveled forward who, like new teammate Chris Wilcox, is a former Maryland Terrapin) might go a ways towards hurrying along that maturity thing depending on how long those individuals stay in OKC. The veterans who were around for the final years of the Seattle Supersonics as we knew them will contribute as well … but, I can’t help but think, not without some bitterness at the business-related issues that led to their being forced to make a professional shift from one of America’s more high-profile cities to a place that is still trying to bury negative stereotypes and the constant association with tragic recent history.

I’ve talked to people who are convinced that the New Orleans Hornets went from Western Conference doormat to Western Conference contender because they were showered with the hugs and kisses and warm fuzzies of the city that adopted them for two years after the Katrina disaster. Well, maybe — pundits weren’t kidding about the college-like atmosphere of the Ford Center (a live pep band would have been nice instead of the Standard Issue National Basketball Association Canned Audio Package, and that still wouldn’t have really done anything for what I find to be a rather plastic and forced gameday presentation) … but I still think it had way more to do with what New Orleans’ management did well before Katrina. They had the great good sense to use their 2005 draft pick on the twinkly-eyed, nauseatingly talented kid from Wake Forest. Even if Katrina had never happened and the Hornets had played in New Orleans that season, Chris Paul would still have been the NBA ROY because he has skills, knows how to run an offense, has some semblance of leadership acumen — you know, that boring, unemotional type stuff?

This should be a very educational season for everybody involved: the team itself, and the fans who still seem a little unsure how to embrace their new team but are going to do it anyway.

Picture Post: The OKC Thunder, Explained … sort of.
October 6, 2008, 10:08 am
Filed under: Sports | Tags: , , ,

(click to view bigger version, thanks).