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News » Bucks-Thunder Preview

Bucks-Thunder Preview

Bucks-Thunder Preview
The last time the Oklahoma City Thunder's players played a regular-season game, they had a different name and a home court more than 1,500 miles away from their new arena.

After an offseason filled with courtrooms, moving trucks and uncertainty, they're simply happy to be playing basketball.

Kevin Durant and his Thunder teammates will play their first game since moving from Seattle on Wednesday night against Milwaukee at Oklahoma City's Ford Center, as the young group looks to improve on the worst season in franchise history.

The franchise formerly known as the SuperSonics was embroiled in controversy through much of the summer, as owner Clay Bennett attempted to free the team from its lease with the city of Seattle at KeyArena in order to move it to his hometown of Oklahoma City.

In July, Bennett and Seattle finally reached a settlement that could total up to $75 million, and the Thunder released their new nickname and logo in September.

Now, Oklahoma City's players will focus on winning basketball games - something that wasn't so easy in 2007-08, when the Sonics lost a franchise-record 62 games and missed the playoffs for the third straight season.

But with a young core surrounding last season's NBA rookie of the year in Durant, they're hoping the move will only help them as they continue to rebuild.

"I think that's the best thing about it: That we're brand new," said Durant, whose 20.3 points per game easily led all rookies. "It's like we're starting over."

They'll have plenty of young talent surrounding Durant, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft. Forward Jeff Green and rookie guard Russell Westbrook, two other top-5 picks from the last two drafts, also figure to play key roles alongside newly acquired veterans Desmond Mason and Joe Smith.

"Right now I think everybody's in a good place," Mason told the Thunder's official Web site. "I think everyone is starting to get more comfortable with each other and that's key for us."

There's still plenty of doubt around which players will fill which roles for coach P.J. Carlesimo, who dealt with injuries to Smith, forward Chris Wilcox and rookie guard Kyle Weaver in the preseason.

"We've got to look at some games, five, 10 games, and see which guys play well together," Carlesimo said. "Right now we haven't had a chance to do as much of that in the preseason as we would have liked, so we'll see."

Milwaukee (0-1) already opened its season, but appears to have just as many questions after losing 108-95 at Chicago on Tuesday. The Bucks are coming off a similarly dismal 26-56 season, and they revamped their roster with a number of moves in the offseason.

One of those was a three-team trade that involved the Thunder, as they sent Mason to Oklahoma City, acquired starting point guard Luke Ridnour from the Thunder and shipped standout point guard Mo Williams to Cleveland.

Milwaukee also acquired Richard Jefferson from the Nets. Jefferson went 5-of-17 from the field in his Bucks debut, as his team racked up 30 fouls Tuesday, sending the Bulls to the free throw line 44 times.

"We were a step slow and we were slapping at people," first-year coach Scott Skiles said. "Pretty much, every category they owned."

Michael Redd had 30 points for Milwaukee, but big numbers from Redd in defeat has become a familiar story for the Bucks over the past four years. Redd has averaged 24.3 points over the past four seasons - eighth-best in the NBA over that span - but the Bucks have struggled to a losing season each time.

Redd scored 41 points at Seattle last Dec. 7, but Durant answered with 35 in the Sonics' 104-98 victory. The Bucks beat Seattle 118-106 at home on March 5, but they've lost eight straight on the road against the Thunder franchise.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 29, 2008


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