Scoop Jackson writing for ESPN.com’s Page 2 with a feature on OKC basketball and the perception it would stink to be stuck here. A good excerpt:
But Oklahoma City has at least one thing that definitely appeals to players. The Thunder has a training facility unlike almost any other in the NBA. It’s where the team practices and works out. To any player who thinks OKC is NBA purgatory, this place will make you thank a higher power than David Stern for allowing a trade to go through.
The facility has become an extreme home away from home. It’s an old roller-skating rink that was tricked out into a state-of-the-art basketball factory where players have been known to hang out hours after practice is over. The oversized chairs and couches are all butter-soft leather. The sound system keeps Dream and Snoop blasting. There are so many flat screens you might almost mistake them for wallpaper. There are also two chefs on site to cook for the players.
If this is the abyss, where does the line start?
Funny thing when you become the main attraction in a place that is supposed to be your purgatory, but the people embrace you so tightly you find it impossible to let them down, or let them go. You begin to realize it ain’t so bad.
“People always ask, ‘Wouldn’t you rather be in Miami or L.A.?’” Durant said. “I always tell them, ‘No.’ This place is perfect for me.”
I do believe I might shed a tear with that closer. But Jackson’s piece is very well done. Yes, we all know Oklahoma City isn’t The Place when it comes to basketball cities. I’ve gone over this. Others have covered it. It’s not news to anyone. But if a player is so shallow and rooted only in his specific interests that he cares about da clubzzz, women and a fancy downtown over being part of a really well run organization, I’m not sure I want you on my team anyway.
The piece mentions how instead of hitting clubs and bars and fighting the distractions of Hollywood or South Beach, these guys make OKC “livable” by sticking close together and constantly hanging out, playing video games, seeing movies and maybe even making lip synced music videos. So in a way, it sounds like, “Hey, there’s nothing to do in OKC except be friends,” but with high character guys on the roster, maybe that’s an advantage. Instead of battling the aforementioned distractions of a big city, these guys build chemistry and a sense of team even off the court. Maybe that’s part Oklahoma City, part their character and personality or a combination of the two. Who knows. But with this current roster, I’d say it’s a good fit.
One other part:
In the NBA, Oklahoma City is considered the abyss. It’s the place where no player wants to be stuck. Nothing against OKC — it used to be Sacremento [sic], Vancouver, San Antonio and Milwaukee. Not only is the Thunder one of the least likely teams to get anyone in the 2010 free agent extravaganza which begins in July, but OKC is generally considered the last place on the NBA map any player would want to play. Not because of the organization or the fact it relocated from Seattle, but because, well, it’s Oklahoma City.
But the city isn’t what it’s made out to be. Like Jon Gosselin masquerading as a good father, it’s been misrepresented. As the Thunder’s veteran point guard Kevin Ollie said, “It’s not Miami or L.A., but it’s cool here. Real chill.”
There is a stereotype about this town. It used to frustrate me, but as I’ve said lately, I’m kind of glad people think we ride covered wagons and our tallest building is the governor’s mansion. If most people really knew what OKC was like and about, then they’d probably move here and ruin it. So keep on thinking what you like.
People haven’t gotten used to the idea of Oklahoma City as a professional sports town. Heck, I haven’t gotten used to idea of Oklahoma City as a professional sports town. But it’s not Basketball Abyss by any means. Especially with what Sam Presti has cooking. It might be known as Basketball Titletown before we know it. Did I just say that? Now I’m just getting carried away here.