The Oklahoma Thunder,
The object of a plunder,
Has proved a major blunder,
By heads described as “dunder.”
The heads, alleged boys wonder,
Though managing to sunder,
The team from former funder,
Were stuck fourteen games under.
Schadenfreude (joy in others' misfortune) may soon be redefined as “Sonic-freude,” the fervent hope that the team legally sacked by Oklahoma businessmen suffers the fortunes of the damned. There may yet be Northwest hoop-lovers maintaining an affection for a team that once was the Seattle SuperSonics. Realists, however, know that, if the one-time Soops ever play here again the team may not even have any of the players who migrated eastward a few months ago.
Local National Basketball Association enthusiasts dream, of course, about the prospects of another basketball franchise (probably one from a distressed market) finding a new home in Seattle any year now. Many wouldn’t even want what the Sonics have become this season. The Oklahoma City Thunder, through the Nov. 26 loss to Cleveland, had lost 15 games and won just once (by three whole points) against Minnesota, itself a 3-9 team. Last week, after losing 10 straight, coach P.J. Carlesimo was replaced by an assistant, Scott Brooks, who then lost three more.
Despite having at least one sports attraction worthy of their attention (the Oklahoma Sooners football team, ranked near the top in the NCAA), a lot of apparent basketball fans within driving distance of OK City still are flocking to watch the Thunder lose. Attendance at the three most recent home tiffs averaged nearly 19,000, half again as high as the Sonics drew per night during their final season that ended last spring at KeyArena.
But a fan-forum exchange in the Daily Oklahoman newspaper Nov. 23 indicates that doubt and defensiveness are gradually replacing hope and happiness. Some of the random comments from various correspondents (lightly edited for spelling and punctuation):
“I keep hearing shots taken at the OKC fans and Thunder organization about the lack of sellouts this season. I did some (easy) research to find out how this year's attendance compares to the two years when the Hornets were in town: 2008 Thunder 18,472 (11th in NBA); 2006 Hornets 17,833 (15th in NBA); 2005 Hornets 18,168 (11th in NBA) I know that there were games played in N.O. (and one in Norman) that will bring down the average a little, but the Hornets made an effort to sell as many tickets as possible as soon as they could....creating sellout opportunities.”
“The Thunder organization seems content with giving fans the opportunity to walk up and buy a ticket every night. That is a great way to build a following but sellouts probably look better. Anybody taking shots at OKC (we’ve seen numerous shots in the national media) are a little off base. The numbers we are posting with the quality of the product on the floor to this point says a lot of positive things about OKC.”
“It is early in the season. The Thunder clearly have the most fans at the games. The other teams I see that aren't the elite ones have empty arenas. I am pleased with the attendance but it will go up now. No one wanted to see PJ and no one wants to see Earl Watson. When the young players get a few wins and get running and playing good basketball, we will start a streak of sell outs.”
“I’m not sure that they'll get too many wins, but I do believe that the Fans will show up if they are competitive and not getting blown out by 25.”
“I think the end-of-season average will be pretty high; there are (in my opinion) more exciting teams coming in the second half of the season. Lakers twice. San Antonio and Dallas will have big draws since people around here have been rooting for them for so long, although Boston, New Orleans, and Cleveland will be big sales for the first half.”
“I think that we can get 25 wins or so this year. Everyone in the west is a not as good as they were last year. Don't get me wrong. Much better than what we are but we need to stomp on the teams on our level: Timberwolves, Kings, Warriors, Grizzlies, Clippers and some of the low Eastern Conference teams. If we win these types of games then we can win 25 games or so. We might catch a few other teams off guard or underestimating us.”
“If we move the ball better and Scott Brooks can develop our young players and figure out how to use some of veterans and young players and we get a few trades, I could see us winning 25 games. With the team we have now I think we can win about 20 games or so. Maybe 25 if we over-achieve and 30 if we get some shooters and can keep everyone healthy.”
“When the young players get a few wins and get running and playing good basketball, we will start a streak of sell outs.”
“We also have to account for the size of our arena. The Clippers game was 872 seats shy of a sellout; that's a horrible team, too. I sat in the upper bowl in that and it sucked. The fans up there don't get that loud (except for the opponents' fans) The national media don't like us, remember, [so] don't expect any positive coverage.”
To win 20, the Thunder would have to go 19-47. Having started at a .062 clip, then, the Okies would need to play at a .288 pace the rest of the way. Oh, and, speaking of records, for the record: The national media don’t care much for the Sonics, either — possibly because the team doesn’t exist anymore.
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