Love Of The Game

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Remarkable is the only word we can think of to describe the rise of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the past 14 months.

Remarkable.

Now we don’t mind pointing out that we were ahead of the curve in predicting big things for the Thunder this season, just check our midsummer rankings and see if we weren’t dead on in our assessment of this crew when we ranked them behind the Lakers in the Western Conference food chain.

Fine, if you don’t wanna go back and see what we said in July we’ll do the work for you:

2 — Oklahoma City

Last season: 50-32

The Skinny: You think this is too big of a jump for a team was the 8th seed last season, don’t you? Well, too bad. If you’re not ready to drink the Thunder Kool-Aid we’ll handle it for you. As long as Kevin Durant is healthy and Russell Westbrook continues to evolve into one of the league’s elite point guards, the Thunder will be a force. Last season’s breakthrough season was just the appetizer. Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha are quality players at their positions, on both ends of the floor, and Nenad Krstic has Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and rookie Cole Aldrich helping him out down low. James Harden had a solid rookie season and could challenge for a more prominent role this season. But even if he doesn’t push for a starting spot he’s already a huge part of a Thunder second unit that has been upgraded tremendously from where it was this time a year ago. Eric Maynor could start of plenty of teams at point guard and Daequan Cook gives them a distance shooter with fantastic size and solid experience, having played with Wade in Miami the past three seasons. Of course, everything here starts with Durant, who signed a five-year extension this summer. The Thunder will be among the West’s elite for as long as he is in uniform.

The one thing we left out of the mix is a fan base that rivals any in the NBA.

Seriously, the Thunder will enjoy a home court advantage this season that few teams on the professional level will ever have the luxury of experiencing. (Be sure to weigh in on the Prime Minister-inspired poll at the bottom of this post.)

We’re talking about a basketball love affair that is going on in Oklahoma City right now, with both sides equally head over heels for the other. It’s been spotlighted by several publications, Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated did a masterful job of capturing it in his magazine’s NBA preview.

But no one understands this bond like the folks that live it.

You saw them during that first round playoff series against the Lakers last season. The sea of blue t-shirts filled with screaming fans. It was like Golden State 2007, when they upended the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. Only the Thunder didn’t have a magical ending to their story. They lost in Game 6 to the Lakers, and somehow the bond between team and town (no disrespect Oklahoma City, but ‘team and town’ had a better ring to it than ‘team and city’) grew stronger.

John Rohde of the Oklahoman says the Thunder are still searching for a reasonable explanation for that scene after the Game 6 loss to the Lakers, when a raucous sellout crowd stood on its feet and applauded its team for a herculean effort only to have the players return the applause:

It was a raw sports moment that couldn’t possibly be choreographed — disappointment, followed by emotion, followed by gratitude — a sequence rarely experienced by any team whose season ends with a loss at home.

The 18,342 fans inside the Ford Center won’t forget that moment, nor will a national audience on ESPN, nor will the Lakers.

Nor will the Thunder.

“I’ve never seen a response like that,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who played in the NBA for a decade and has coached for another. “That never happens. It was heartfelt and our guys appreciated it.”

Brooks paused and searched for more words.

“That’s, um… not common,” Brooks said. “That’s not common, but there are so many things we love about Oklahoma City. Our fans are so loyal to us. They had tough times early on (a 3-29 start in 2008-09), but hopefully those times are behind us.”

Trust us coach, the tough times are a thing of the past.

The love affair, though, is just beginning.

44 Comments

  1. Pagiho says:

    Thunder will not do anything special this year
    They are justa team of overrated people who cant play ball
    Durant is the exception
    Celtic for the win

  2. glynn says:

    I really want the thunder to upset the lakers SOOOOOOOOO badly. Man you know how many laker fans would start saying durant sucks? THose are by far the craziest fans in the league, but seeing okc beat LAL will be the BESSSTTTT playoff ever. It’ll be even sweeter then miami winning the title in my opinion. Just to see the look on kobe’s face lol

    They pushed them to 6 games. If harden can improve more defensively and offensively and westbrook can improve more offensively i believe they may be able to push lakers to a 7 game series. Then it’ll be a sudden death match between durant and kobe, whoever perform best would win.

  3. iDieinLA says:

    This is all i need to say to Lebron Fans… “Only Kings have Rings” Nuff Said

  4. Z says:

    okay, am I the only on who noticed that the Raptors and Warriors are on the list of home court and not the Suns? I call BS!

  5. KIngJAMES says:

    The 3peat will not happen….MIAMI will win it all !!!
    and LeBRON will win the Season MVP, All Star MVP and FINALS MVP !!!!

  6. BostonFTW says:

    Boston is going to surprise everybody again this season. BOSTON 2011 CHAMPIONS

  7. […] remain NBA champs for 2010NYU Washington Square NewsSportingNews.com -ProBasketballTalk -NBA.com (blog)all 52 news […]

  8. Przemysław Grzyś says:

    I don’t like this “thunder talk”. don’t you guys have anything else to talk about? I’m a fan of the franchise since 1996 and for me there is no other team to cheer for, but still I’d love to see this progress going on in Seattle. I just hope that this media punch will not affect those guys/ Greetings from POLAND

  9. LAKERS>HEAT says:

    heat won’t make it past the East, plain and simple…. LeBron left Cleavland just to join a similar boat in MIA. What happens when lebron and wade/bosh aren’t shooting well ? its gunna be the same thing for the 3 amigos…. all those vet. min signings all look decent but… like mo williams…, they’ll have their games, but not in the playoffs. LAKERS !

  10. cory says:

    no wait get Augustin, Batum, and McGee (same thing as above comment)

  11. cory says:

    @KillaRific:

    get D.J Augustin, Evan Turner, and McGee (if he is a starter, if he’s not than get biedrins)

  12. DA REAL CUBA OF BOSTON says:

    THNUDER WILL NOT DEFEAT LAKERS come on efellas lets be real , even though DURANTULA is amazing , and his support team has gotten better they are not ( I HATE TO SAY THIS) LAKER good yet, as the sun sets in the pacific west, aka LAKERS GOLDEN YELLOW, aka KOBE , the thunder will strike in the midwest, OKC will be batling with the LAKERS (if they dont mess the team up with bad trades) for about 2 seasons to come , and then that is when they will officially be the number one team in the WEST , they just gotta hang in the top spots and let time go by a little , while they wait they will be getting better as the lakers get a little older with each day.

    in 3 years we might be ready to see a OKLAHOMA and BULLS final. I DONT SEE MIAMI winning back to backs like the LAKERS did, I’M not saying they won’t squeeze one out (next year will be the best time for them to do this) but to win multiple it wont happen.

  13. sonicsfan says:

    i love the thunder but, I still wish they were still in seattle as the sonics….

  14. 3Peat,17,6 says:

    yeah even as a laker fan i gotta admit that was some $**t…who applauses their team after they lost?…nobody does that…thunder and jazz will be competing 4 the best home crowd…and it is not ridiculous to put them that far up in the rankings…portland dallas and OKC will make it 2 the playoffs 4 sure this season in my opinion (lakers of course will have the first seed) and all the other teams in the west except sacramento, oakland and minnesota will be fightin 4 those final four spots(no disrespect 2 those teams they r just not good enough this season but tyreke and cousin can do damage in the future maybe lee and curry or love beasley and that rookie johnson i think his name is but as of right now no playoffs) san antonio:as long as timmy is still wit them these dudes always make the playoffs, houston:yao is back brooks lookin like a modern day iverson and scola is super underrated imagine if san antonio kept him?, new orleans: CP3 and ariza?, denver:melo still in town?, phoenix: hedo turk replace amare?, clippers: can blake griffin end the curse?, utah: is jeferson really a big steal?, memphis: can the startin 5 do it all by themselves…the west has been interestin for the last couple of seasons and this yr is only gonna get better 5 more days til openin tip!!!!!…o…and the lakers r gonna 3Peat this yr beatin the celtics again…miami get urself a PG and C and maybe u can get past rondo rose D12 bogut and get beaten by the lakers in the finals or beaten by OKC if kobe has already retired…miami bandwagons dream on…once kobe is gone Durantula will take the throne…F LeBron point agreed…

  15. Sp says:

    How did an uplifting piece about great homecourt advantage INSTANTLY get turned into a LeBron debate? Seriously, who cares? As a longtime fan of the lakers, a friend of mine watched them play in Oklahoma last year in the playoffs and came away from those games literally fearful that the building was going to collapse from the madness that went on there. OKC fans are dedicated and full of spite to a level that is rarely seen outside european football clubs. The lakers had literally no way of containing the thunder during those playoff games in Okla, and i think once more and more fans saw the sheer power of being incredibly loud and its detrimental effect of the opposition, even more of them joined in. Needless to say, Oklahoma this year will probably go close to winning every single game at home. Their fans are going to be going insane if they don’t. Look at Kobe’s eyes when they bring him out on court for the first time in OK in that series, the crowd loses their minds and you can see that little tiny seed of doubt and worry in Bryant’s eyes, which played out to bigtime losses from the defending champions.

  16. six6heat says:

    miami and boston will battle it out for the rights to face the lakers chance at a 3peat…no one in the west has the talent to beat the lakers in a 7 game series…lakers over heat in 6.

  17. seattle fan says:

    screw the thunder, okc’s excitement over basketball will go down eventually. This all could have been the glory of the Seattle Sonics, but now everyone has forgoton the the city that got it’s team ripped out by a scheming, lying businessman. If only the sonics could have known and sabatoged the thunder by choosing oden over durant.

  18. pKone says:

    I am a Suns fan, but I am most excited about the Spurs and Thunder this season!

    No disrespect to the Heat, its just that they should be good, and the only surprise they can offer me is disappointment ;)

  19. SargeMiami says:

    I think you all are delusional!! Lakers are old and tired and will never be able to physically keep up with the Heat!! Dwayne Wade and Lebron are the two best best player in the league and even if they were playing with a herd of cows they would still win the Championship. As for KD, he is good but a little bit over rated at this point. Give he time, he will get better but not there yet. The Miami heat for the NBA title!!!

  20. JS says:

    having just done the pre-season survey before checking this article, i selected the thunder to win the west, but lose to the heat in the finals. KD to win MVP. i’ll stick by it, but let the criticism to my selections commence.

    • RUSTINNNNN says:

      @ JS: The Thunder will win the West only after Kobe retires, goof. KD has a good chance at the MVP, but his team will have to climb higher than the eighth seed for him to do so.

      Also, the Cavs will have the best home court advantage, but only on December 2nd.

      Finally, most of y’all are in serious need of a spelling/grammar lesson. You’re making it look bad for the rest of us hoops fans.

    • KINGKOBE says:

      You shouldnt get high and then leave silly comments on this website.

    • CantBeatLA says:

      bro no offense, but it is highly illogical and pretty much out of the realm of possibility that heat will make it to the finals. Even the eastern finals, they will be a 1st round or 2nd round team at best. I cant see them getting any farther in the playoffs, against Boston, Orlando, Bulls, Bobcats, even Hawks and Bucks, they need to improve dramatically and they wont be able to do it this season. Ill enjoy seeing them play and win in the season, but dont be disappointed in the playoffs when Heat loses, they arent built to win playoff games. serves Queen James right tho lol D Wade needs to go to Chi-Town. anyways, Lakers will 3 peat unless Thunders upset them (which could be possible, but highly unlikely)

  21. KillaRific says:

    i got a fantasy basketball question for anyone who can help…. i need 1 more PG… the 2 best remaining in my league are D.J Augustin and Chris Conley. who do you all think will put up better fantasy numbers??
    And i need another SF. Nickolaus Batum, Evan Turner or Anthony Morrow. i know morrow’s more of a shooting guard but hes listed as a SF as well. what do you all think?
    And whos the better big man to have of the 3? : Javale McGee, Charlie Villanueva, or Andris Biedrins???

    • niko2012 says:

      D.J. Augustin
      Evan Turner
      Javale McGee
      (all 3 are starters and will have play larger roles in their teams, therefore getting more oppurtunities to put up more stats)

  22. Fabio says:

    I’m a lakers fan, but man am i looking forward to watching wade, bosh and lebron all playing together. It’s gonna be awesome not only for miami, but for the entire league.

  23. DA REAL CUBA OF BOSTON says:

    just read some of the comments THE MIAMI HEAT WILL ONLY WIN 57 GAMES THIS YEAR …. CALL me CUBADAMUS

    this will happen , and WADE will miss 8 games.

    • ALFONSO CORRAL says:

      only???? thats all you need to be no 1 in the overated east

      • Law064 says:

        The East is a lot stronger than the west bonehead. The West has been losing it since 2007-2008 how do you think the Lakers are dominating the West No other team can get close to them because the West Suck and they don’t play D

  24. DA REAL CUBA OF BOSTON says:

    well truth is the powers that be are behind the THUNDER now and its a good thing for the CITY and the area , as now all those neighboring states have something to drive to NO DISRESPECT but besides TEXAS teams they aint really have to much in those areas in terms of basketball, WHY DOESNT MISSOURI HAVE A TEAM YET???? I UNDERSTAND WHY IOWA DOESNT small market but KANSAS CITY could have one or ST LOUIS but anyway back to OKC matters. the thunder are going to be the #4 seed this season out west , which means they will still have to play the LAKERS but in the 2nd round this time , they will have troubles in the big department but , are young and fast enough to push it to 7 games and then luck will have to be on thier side a little , but that is not bad for a team of this age. SCOTT BROOKS will be COACH of the year again, if they are seeded 4th or better in the west. he is making this team push itself and still keep so humble and level headed they are like COLLEGE TEAM (when its comes to playing together) but the goal is TITLE not the big dance. IT WILL BE LAKERS VS CELTICS but this time it will be 6 games qoute it.

  25. SuperSonics says:

    Their still our Sonics…

  26. heat fan says:

    thunder will definitely have the best home court advantage this season by far. the team though is still too young to really compete with the likes of the miami highlight machine. :) perhaps they can meet the heat in 2012 finals(if there is no lockout).

    • Lakers 3peat says:

      Screw that circus down in Miami ……no disrespect to Wade n Bosh, but F Lebron James, straight up

      • HAAAA says:

        its obvious you’re butthurt because your a lakers fan.
        how are u gunna say “F LEBRON” but not the same to Chris Bosh?
        HAHAHAHA obvious bitterness that the Lakers will get a run for their money. D:
        its okay though.. hypocritical, bias opinions are welcome.. i guess..

    • KINGKOBE says:

      @heat fan. Dude lay off the crack before leaving a comment on this website. The Thunder will have the best home court advantage this season by far? But the team is still too young to really compete. Sounds like a contradiction! The heat will be a good and fun team to watch, no doubt. But in reality, the team is not made for the playoffs. No solid point guard, and no solid centers. Two important positions. So you heat fans can hype yourselfs up all you want, only to be heart broken and butt hurt in June. Lakers will three peat. The Lakers from top to bottom have the best team in the league and just like the have won back to back titles, they will three peat! And @ HAAAA, the heat wont even make it to the finals to give the LAKERS a run for their money! LOL!!!!!! They wont get past Boston, Orlando, or maybe even the Bulls and the Bobcats could beat the heat. Besides the three amigos, that team is whack!!! They have a looooooooong way to go before winning a title. But if MVP’s count, then thats a different story. LOL!!!

      • pKone says:

        Can’t beleive I am siding with someone with the call sign “KINGKOBE” but the Heat do have a lot to prove before I invest in them.

        The Lakers have players who’ve proven they can win together
        The Spurs have an instititution and a program that works
        The Magic are solid at EVERY position
        The Celtics have a veteran (old?) team that knows how to win and have something to prove before they retire
        The Thunder? They have youth, energy and some great players on both offense and defense and a second unit that can only be beat by the second units of the Mavs and Lakers

        So until I see what the Heat really have to offer, besides 3 of the top 10 players in the league I can’t say “See you in the Finals”

      • KillaRific says:

        COME ON REALLY??? THE BOBCATS BEAT THE HEAT IN A PLAYOFF SERIES. MAYBE IF WADE AND LBJ ARE INJURED.

      • James says:

        Well said my friend. Laker has a really solid from top to bottom. 3peat please ; )

      • Law064 says:

        Sorry Lakers fans but The Lakers can’t 3 peat because they didn’t repeat, Boston was cheated in that horrible game 7 of the finals. How can you call the Lakers champs when they shot under 38% in that game and they shot over 20 free throws in the 4TH QUARTER ALONE?? IT WAS FIXED. The Heat only have 3 players well that’s 2 and a half. Lebron is a choker he’s no Kobe or D Wade. I can see the Hawks going farther than the Heat. @KingKobe I can only agree with you about the heat not having a point guard and no true Big man. Bosh is the best PF in the league now but he can’t guard other PF’s like KG,Tim D, or Amare S. The heat will struggle against teams like Boston,ATL,Orlando and even the Bulls, not to mention the Lakers who have size as well. The Lakers were not the champs last year they paid for that title sorry. Boston will face off with the Lakers again and Boston will take it this year. If anyone played NBA 2k11 just watch the heat play lol that’ll be the same in real life, everyone give the ball to Lebron or Wade and just watch like spectators it’s ridiculous. Their bench is full of has beens Eddie H?? Juwan Howard are you serious Joel Anthony lol what a joke. The only true bench player is Udonis H. Outside of that it’ll take a miricale for them to beat any top Eastern conf team in a 7 game series. Not to mention Kobe and the Lake show. I hate the Lakers but I’m also a true b-ball fan and can see that the Heat can’t beat the Lakers in a 7 game series either. And yes Kobe is the best in the league, Lebron will never compare to him, D Wade is the next best to Kobe. Lejoke James will always be a robin to the true Batman or the Scottie Pippen to Jordan. A great player but does not have what it takes in the clutch.

    • LakersWillWin says:

      As a Lakers fan why would we be bitter about Miami??? LeBron did the worst possible thing by making an hour long show telling us he was leaving.
      Just because we like the Lakers means we have to approve of what he did? Come on now get real.
      Besides, Miami sucks without any of the big 3 on the floor. Lakers will give them a run for their money. Even if we lost to them it wouldn’t matter, what matters it the ring.

      • daez says:

        Everyone, including you, forgot that “The Decision” TV Show generated ALOT of money for charity. And it wasn’t really him who made that show, that was a PR stunt. Don’t hate LeBron, he did nothing but good by 1- Making money for charity, and 2- Leaving the Cavs (finally).