Friday Bolts – 4.24.09

The Ford Center’s renovations are underway: “We are officially shut down at the Ford Center,” said Gary Desjardins, thunderbolt2316general manager of the Ford Center. “We’ll open back up in October.”Desjardins provided an update on the facility to members of the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau on Thursday. He oversees the arena and exhibit halls at the Cox Business Services Convention Center. By the time the Thunder hits the court next season, there will be several changes made to the Ford Center. The publicly funded Ford Center was completed in 2002 at a cost of $89 million. In anticipation of luring an NBA team, Oklahoma City voters approved $120 million in improvements to the center in 2008. Some of that work has been completed, but a major project will include renovation of several areas of the center by October. Desjardins said when the center reopens there will be changes, some not noticeable at first glance. Other areas will not really be touched during renovations. “When you walk through the doors in the entry level, you won’t see a whole lot,” he said. “That’s probably the only level that’s not getting a huge makeover.”

Great piece in Sporting News Today about Jeremy Tyler’s decision to turn pro in Europe: “The calculated risk here is not just about him making the NBA. I would think he could sit around and eat doughnuts for a year and have better than 50 percent chance to make the NBA,” Fraschilla. “There’s more of a chance to make a mistake – putting yourself in the wrong situation – in Europe because of the unknown.”

The Thunder donated some items to the Oklahoma History Museum: “Thunder Chairman, Clay Bennett, announced the donation of the first season items to the Oklahoma History Center to commemorate the Thunder’s historic inaugural NBA season. Among the items donated– the official game ball from the final home game.  They also donated shoes from Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook as well as the Thunder bench seat from the Ford Center. Bennett was officially honored for being named Oklahoman of the Year for 2008.”

Clay Bennett was presented his Oklahoman of the Year award at the donation: “But the other speakers made it clear why Bennett was the man of the hour. “Just bringing an NBA franchise to Oklahoma is one of the most exciting things that has happened in our state in my entire lifetime,” Henry said. “I know because I was involved a little bit on the periphery that there were a lot of people involved in making that a success and bringing an NBA franchise to Oklahoma and to Oklahoma City. “But I can tell you this: There is no one more responsible for making that happen. Without Clay Bennett, it wouldn’t have happened. It’s just that simple.” Henry also pointed out that it took fortitude on Bennett’s part, considering that he became a villain in Seattle for moving that city’s first major-league franchise after he demanded a new, $500 million arena that never won support among Washington state legislators. “It was because of his vision, his leadership and, quite frankly, his fearlessness. This guy had death threats, as you could imagine, when he had to go spend some time in that city to the northwest of our state,” Henry said.”

Stephen Curry turned pro yesterday and Dime with a really great feature: “In the Garden that night, Curry could have done anything, and the packed house would have ooh’d and aah’d in delight. But no one would have been completely shocked. He could have started banking in half court hook shots as an encore and the crowd wouldn’t have thought twice about it.  So why can’t he do that on the stage wearing an NBA jersey? The truth is that Stephen will succeed at the next level, and he’ll do so because of this experience. Not his night at the Garden, but because of all those other nights just like this one. Stephen Curry believes that he’s this good. And his confidence is a greater asset than being 6-7 or 230 pounds or having a 45-inch vertical.”

It appears Bill 6116 is dead and that means KeyArena isn’t getting renovated any time soon which means Bennett will get to keep that extra $30 mil: “Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle says too many other lawmakers objected to the plan to extend restaurant and car rental taxes. He told The Seattle Times there’s no chance of the measure being revived before Sunday when the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn. That hurts the city’s chances of getting another $30 million from the NBA owner who moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City. Clay Bennett agreed to pay the money as part of the deal to end the KeyArena lease. He would have to pay if the state approved the arena taxes this year and no NBA team comes to Seattle by 2013.”

Kevin Sullivan of Sports Business Journal doesn’t like the way OKC fired P.J. Carlesimo (via Thunder Rumblings): “(Sam) Presti could have laid out his vision and then introduced impressive assistant coach Scott Brooks as the interim coach for the remainder of the season. Brooks would have had the chance to look into the cameras and say: “I have clear plans to make the team play with more energy and passion,” precisely what he said on that Saturday night in New Orleans when everybody in Oklahoma City was watching OU dismantle Texas Tech.”

Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley: “If the bill dies, the city won’t get the $30 million that the owners of the Oklahoma City Thunder were supposed to pay as part of the agreement that allowed them to move the team from Seattle. Forget the sweet revenge of making Clay Bennett pay the price for his piracy — how can any legislative body, in these difficult times, turn down $30 million? And even though there are as many as 10 NBA teams looking for buyers, the death of this bill would kill any hope of bringing a team to Seattle. The group of investors headed by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that pledged $300 million, half the money needed to renovate the Key, isn’t going to wait forever to fix KeyArena and purchase a team. If lawmakers don’t care, why should they?” And they wonder why they moved… hmmm…..

Brew Hoop looks at 2012’s potential Olympic team: “Kevin Durant: Had some rough stretches as a rook, but who doesn’t? Oozes diverse offensive ability, and should be hitting for almost 30 per night by 2012.”

The Kings releaed Kenny Natt yesterday. Good thing we locked up Scott Brooks or they’d probably be introducing him right now: “Some 80 minutes after the Kings announced that interim coach Kenny Natt would not return next season, [Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie] made his preferences clear to the media as they pertain to the team’s fifth coach in the last five years. And after calling only for candidates that come with NBA head coaching experience and a successful track record at that, he had his stance supported by Joe Maloof.”