COACH: P.J. Carlesimo | 2007-08: 22-60
Oklahoma City Thunder

New threads, new town and an old face, Desmond Mason, who spent two seasons with the NO/OKC Hornets, will play before sell-out crowds.
Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images
The Thunder isn’t an expansion team. It just feels that way. Many of the names and faces that take the Ford Center court this month wore Sonics green and gold, but the ties to the Pacific Northwest are quickly fading away. Seattle has begrudgingly moved on … with its old nickname intact should the NBA return one day.

Oklahoma City has moved forward, christening the Thunder with a smidge of Oklahoma Sooner red and Oklahoma State Cowboy orange. Ford figures to be popping, even if the OKC puts up expansion-type numbers in the win column. P.J. Carlesimo leads a baby-faced squad building for the better days.

“We were 20-62 last year. We have a long way to go,” Nick Collison told the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. “I think they are setting our team up in the future the right way, to be a winner.”

The team-formally-known-as-the-Sonics did score one major victory last season when Kevin Durant, the second pick in the Draft, claimed Rookie of the Year. The Texas Ex wasn’t a popular guy in the Boomer State a couple years back, but now he’s a favorite son. Albeit, an adopted one.

The rail-thin Durant spent much of the summer getting stronger. Adding some bulk to his 6-9, 215-pound frame will help him better handle the physical rigors of NBA life. That should improve his rebounding totals of last season (4.4) and won’t hurt the scoring numbers (20.3).

KD didn’t do the first-year thing alone, as fellow All-Rookie first teamer Jeff Green averaged nearly 11 points and five boards. Green’s summer focus was his shot, especially from downtown. The Durant-Green duo finished strong last season, taking it to another gear in April. Durant racked up 24.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists in the season’s final month, while Green went for 15.6 and 6.3.

“I will be shocked if they don’t, not just pick up where they left off, but play at an even higher level right from the beginning,” Carlesimo told The Oklahoman. “It will be noticeable to people that these guys are better players than when they left in April.”

The Thunder’s front office sought veteran help for the soon-to-be sophomores, and hauled in swingman Desmond Mason and forward Joe Smith. Mason, an Oklahoma State product who also played for the Hornets during their OKC stay, is a career 12.5-points-per-game scorer. Smith has proven solid if unspectacular during a 13-year run after going No. 1 overall out of Maryland.

“With Desmond, we really feel strongly about his toughness,” GM Sam Presti said. “It kind of feeds into the identity that we’re trying to build with our team. And with Joe, he adds depth to the frontline, and ability to shoot the ball. And both of them again are going to add some stability and leadership to the young core that we have in place.”

Adding to the frontcourt ranks is Collison, a versatile big man who averaged a share less than 10 and 10 last season. Fourth overall pick Russell Westbrook joins the show after two years at UCLA, one as a starter. Carlesimo has labeled the point guard a future star, and one scout who watched Westbrook at the Orlando summer league remarked: “He’s flat out the best player here not named Kevin Durant.”

Back to Durant. The Thunderstruck Kid is truly the future of the franchise and everyone knows it.

“It’s going to be a good opportunity for him to learn from some veteran guys and for us to be around such an extraordinary young talent,” Mason told the Oklahoman. “The kid is good. I think everybody knows that. He’s very talented. He seems like he’s got his head on his shoulders.”

-- Art Garcia

In their inaugural season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have sold 13,000 season ticket packages.

Durant
Better make this men, women and children on the spot. The basketball fans of Oklahoma City have opened up their hearts and their wallets in the big way for the state’s first permanent major-league franchise. Season tickets sold out in just five days, as 13,000 seats were gobbled up for all 41 home games.

The franchise capped season tickets at the nearly 20,000-seat Ford Center, with the difference being held back for single-game tickets, group sales and partial season-ticket plans. The outpouring of support hasn’t gone unnoticed. Carlesimo is counting on the thunder from the stands making a difference on the hardwood.

“Clearly now, the sense of permanence here is welcome,” he told The Oklahoman. “Some of it didn’t dawn on me until (tickets went on sale). Seeing people around town wearing our colors, wearing our shirt and hats, wearing ‘the blue,’ it’s a significant step for us to be doing something in Oklahoma City.”

Mason knows a thing or two about OKC fans after his stint with the Hornets.

“Players around the league noticed the sellouts here and how crazy the fans were,” Mason told the same newspaper. “The guys coming in from Seattle are really going to enjoy it here. The one thing that stood out is I don’t remember getting booed one time. Every other city I played in, at some point in time we got booed. Oklahoma City has great fans.”

-- Art Garcia

THE STAT
10/29/08 First-ever regular-season home game for the Thunder vs. the Milwaukee Bucks
Oklahoma City Thunder. That sounds strange, doesn’t it?
Joe Smith is decent as is Nick Collison, but neither strikes fear in the heart of their opponents.
Other than Kevin Durant and sometimes Chris Wilcox there isn’t a lot here.
Desmond Mason brings them a nice defensive presence but is too inconsistent on the offensive end.
They will be lucky to win 25 games.
-- NBA Scout
Kevin Durant led all rookies in minutes, points, and free-throw shooting, and became only the third teenager in NBA history (LeBron and Carmelo are the others) to average 20 points per game. And he achieved those numbers despite playing a large part of his minutes out of position at shooting guard, and was the sole scoring option on a really dismal team.

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NBA.com Fantasy Index

Record: 23-59, 15th in Western Conf.
Playoffs: No postseason
Scoring Leader: K. Durant, 19.5 PPG
Rebounding Leader: C. Wilcox, 8.7 RPG
Assist Leader: R. Westbrook, 7.2 APG

Simulated Season Details
PLAYER/2007-08 STATS PPG RPG APG
PG Earl Watson 10.7 2.9 6.8
SG Kevin Durant 20.3 4.4 2.4
SF Jeff Green 10.5 4.7 1.5
PF Chris Wilcox 13.4 7.4 1.2
C Nick Collison 9.8 9.4 1.4

G Russell Westbrook -- -- --
G Damien Wilkins 9.2 3.2 2.0
G Desmond Mason 9.7 4.3 2.1
F Joe Smith 10.1 5.2 0.9
F Serge Ibaka Draft
F D.J. White Draft
G-F Kyle Weaver Draft
F-C Devon Hardin Draft
F Joe Smith Trade
F Desmond Mason Trade
G Francisco Elson Free agent
G Luke Ridnour Trade
G Adrian Griffin Trade
F Donyell Marshall Waived
PPG Kevin Durant 20.3
RPG Nick Collison 9.4
APG Earl Watson 6.8
SPG Kevin Durant 1.0
BPG Kevin Durant 0.9
Points Scored 97.5 (16th)
Points Allowed 106.3 (27th)
Field-Goal Percentage .444 (24rd)
Opponents' FG% .461 (18th)
Rebounding Diff. +0.52 (13th)
TV: TBD
Radio: WWLS 640 AM and WWLS-FM 98.1 FM
Web: Official site
Local Coverage: The Oklahoman