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News » Former Sonics get fresh start in Oklahoma City

Former Sonics get fresh start in Oklahoma City

Former Sonics get fresh start in Oklahoma City
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - After spending most of his NBA career in Seattle, Earl Watson thinks he's learned a lot about Oklahoma City in only two weeks in his new team's home.

When he hasn't been playing pickup games with his Thunder teammates, he's had a chance to get out and explore - even if that's not exactly what he had planned.

"I got lost so many times in Oklahoma City. I didn't know a street changes name, or one freeway doesn't run through the whole city, so I got a chance to meet pretty much the whole city," said Watson, a point guard who's spent four of his eight NBA seasons with the SuperSonics.

Watson's aren't the only mishaps in the team's transition from Seattle to Oklahoma City over the past three months since owner Clay Bennett reached a settlement to move the team out of the Pacific Northwest after more than four decades.

For example, forward Chris Wilcox got his box springs delivered from Seattle, but it would have been nice to have his mattress come in at the same time.

But those are the kind of things that the Thunder must deal with. While the 29 other NBA teams can focus on Xs and Os, they're finding new homes, new places to eat and - as Watson learned - which roads lead where.

"Moving, no matter what, is a pain," said forward Nick Collison, who had been one of the more vocal opponents of moving from Seattle. "We're still in boxes and stuff like that, but we've done a good job in a short time of getting acclimated to the place and figuring out how to get around, and we feel pretty good about it."

Players were eased into the transition with voluntary workouts over the past couple of weeks, preceding the start of training camp on Tuesday. The first preseason game is a week after that, so the focus will have to be on basketball from here on out.

Even if it doesn't quite feel like home yet, the Thunder players are doing their best to get settled.

Kevin Durant, the reigning Rookie of the Year took in Oklahoma's football game against TCU on Saturday, and the former Texas start said he wrote "Hook 'Em Horns" on every autograph he signed and flashed the Longhorns' hand signal when fans wanted to take a picture with him. He didn't shy away from predicting a win for his alma mater against the top-ranked Sooners in two weeks either.

Desmond Mason has been a de facto tour guide because he went to Oklahoma State and spent two seasons in Oklahoma City with the temporarily relocated New Orleans Hornets. The most common questions he gets are just for places to eat, and he tells his teammates to stick with barbecue and steaks.

"For me, it's not new but for the other guys it's new," Mason said. "It's fun, though, having the guys come back and seeing them figure out how to live. I've had some talks about tornadoes and I told them to get to know somebody that has a basement or a storm shelter or a basement just in case."

Being in an unfamiliar place could be a distraction for the Thunder, but it can also have its positives. When the Hornets had to suddenly move from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the early days in Oklahoma City wound up being a team-building exercise. That first season brought a 20-win improvement

"I think it'll be good for us as a team because none of us really know anybody. I think it'll make us closer, we'll hang out more together and talk about the transition and things like that," Collison said. "In the past, everyone's kind of got their own circles of people. Well, here, we're kind of on our own."

The former SuperSonics need all the positives they can get after a franchise-worst 20 wins last season. They brought in Mason and Joe Smith to provide veteran leadership for the young core that features Durant and fellow first-round picks Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and D.J. White.

After wondering about the franchise's future for the past two years, just having a little stability could make a big difference for the players. And distancing themselves, quite literally, from a disappointing past few seasons doesn't hurt either.

"I think that's the best thing about it: That we're brand new," Durant said. "It's like we're starting over."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: September 29, 2008


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