One year ago today, a professional team started to make its way to Oklahoma City. It wasn’t pretty and we didn’t make any friends, but through a lot of hard work and tremendous dedication, Clay Bennett and his group gave us what we’re sitting here talking about today. And I just want to say thanks to all those involved. Without this team, I can safely say my life would be quite a bit different. Happy anniversary Oklahoma City.
Berry Tramel on the anniversary: “Bennett spent Father’s Day 2008 in a Seattle high-rise, prepping for the federal trial in which the city had sued the Sonics, trying to force the franchise to play out its lease at KeyArena. He was Public Enemy No. 1 in a major U.S. market, and just because he wasn’t the first sports owner to feel such wrath – Art Modell, Walter O’Malley, Bob Irsay – didn’t make the notoriety any easier. Bennett traveled to Seattle that weekend with full-time, armed security. He stayed in a secret location, a condo outside the city, with guards in the hallway and guards in the lobby. The rest of the Sonics party from OKC stayed at a hotel under aliases.”
ESPN’s Ultimate Standings are out and the Thunder ranked 57th, one spot in front of the Red Sox: “Looks like the move from the Emerald City was a fan-friendly one. Clay Bennett may have been the worst owner in last year’s Standings, but Oklahoma City fans have given their new franchise a 59-spot overall bump and an increase in nearly every category. The fans are excited by a future that includes young talent (Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook) and community initiatives such as the Rolling Thunder Book Bus and fitness clinics run by the players themselves. And with tickets, soda, beer and parking going for less than the league average (though the price of a hat is tied for most expensive, at $22), fans are more than okay with OKC, declaring the Thunder the eighth-most affordable franchise in sports and the cheapest of any NBA team. The only negative is their home, the Ford Center, which lacks luxury amenities, well-lit concourses and leg room. But even that negative has a positive upside: The Thunder will sink $100 million into the facility over the next two years, adding restaurants, bars, premium seating and a new scoreboard. As Oklahoma City proves, there really is no place like (a new) home.” (Click here to see the scoring system)
Gortat has said he wants a mid-level deal: “Marcin Gortat, who has never made huge money and wasn’t part of a college recruiting process, seemed touched when Morey showed him how hundreds of messages were pouring in. By mid-afternoon Wednesday, Gortat had received more than 2,000 messages telling him how he’d love being a Rocket. There’s also a tough-love side to this story. Gortat’s agent mentioned wanting a full mid-level exception. That amounts to around $30 million over five years. The Rockets aren’t offering nearly that much and apparently aren’t prepared to go higher. They’ve assigned a value to Gortat, and if, say, the Mavericks are offering more, the Rockets are prepared to lose him.”
Here’s one vote for Paul Millsap: “Paul Millsap would immediately add a tough rebounding presence and the blue-collar attitude that the young Thunder need. Adding Millsap makes the playoffs a possibility, especially considering Yao Ming’s injury in Houston puts the Rockets 2010 playoff hopes in major jeopardy opening up a spot for another Western Conference team. Millsap gives any team he’s on many second (and often third) chance opportunities on the offensive end. If Boozer opts out of Utah, then expect the Jazz to match any offer made on Millsap.”
And interesting column from the Seattle Times Jerry Brewer: “Easiest assignment ever: Go to the town that abducted the Sonics and write some impressions. Or, in other words, sip some Hater-ade and let ‘er rip. But a crazy thing happened on this disdainful mission. I learned to tolerate Oklahoma City. Then I learned to kinda, sorta like the place. And then, shocker of all shockers, I learned to accept it as an NBA city and stop connecting the Thunder with the Sonics.”
HoopsDaily on OKC’s current state: “This is a team on the verge of a quick rise in the win column. After their dreadful 1-16 start, which got coach P.J. Carlesimo fired just 13 games into the season, the Thunder finished strong under Scott Brooks, going 10-14 in their last 24 games. That isn’t exactly setting the world on fire, but it’s a start. Oklahoma City must keep its patience and use their cap space wisely this summer and the next. If they do, the playoffs are very likely in the near future.”
A nice feature on B.J. Mullens: “B.J. Mullens has seen the worst and made the best of it. While he was growing up, his family bounced around to a dozen different homes with stops at a homeless shelter in between. He got shuttled around from one school to the next. His brother got in trouble for dealing drugs. Then basketball helped change everything. As he kept growing, opportunities started opening up for Mullens. He was accepted to a prep school on scholarship and then committed to Ohio State when he was in the ninth grade and already 6 feet 8. And now, he’s a first-round draft pick of the Oklahoma City Thunder.”
Dime on Robert Swift’s deal with the Celtics: “Now, this does NOT mean Swift has signed a free-agent deal with Boston. It just means the unrestricted FA has a spot to showcase himself in case no one signs him beforehand.”
Sports Illustrated released this year’s Fortunate 50 and let me tell you, that list blows me away. Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis check in 17 and 12 spots in front of Albert Pujols. If that doesn’t show you how messed up salaries and money are in sports then you don’t get it. It’s amazing how franchises shell out money to these guys like they’re throwing them Skittles. Oh you want six-years, $75 million? You got it! It appears Sam Presti is on top of things and isn’t running that sort of franchise. And I’m grateful for it. Free agency has completely changed sports, but when you see things like this, it kind of makes you think.