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News » Thunder off to a better start

Thunder off to a better start

Thunder off to a better start The Thunder had a lower ceiling last season, literally and figuratively.

Residing in what amounted to a makeshift locker room at the Ford Center, there was modest head room for a team with even more modest expectations.

The low clearance seemed appropriate, given the Thunder's ridiculous youth and the fact team members still needed GPS to navigate around town.

This season brings a new locker room with a ceiling roughly twice as high as last year's digs.

This, too, seems appropriate. More head room for a team with a higher ceiling for success.

Thunder players now know where they are. Their next trick is to figure out who they are. What they are is a better team.

The Thunder opened the season Wednesday night with a 102-89 victory over Sacramento before a sellout home crowd of 18,203.

Beating the Kings is the polar opposite of beating the Lakers, but the Thunder will take any win against anyone, particularly given what transpired in last year's season opener.

In its Oklahoma City debut one year ago tonight, the Seattle transfers stunk up the joint in a 98-87 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, who essentially equate to the Eastern Conference version of the Kings.

That loss begat a 1-12 start under coach P.J. Carlesimo, which became 1-16, which became a 3-29 record before a New Years' Eve victory.

This year's Thunder already has as many victories as it did on Nov. 28 a year ago.

There will be many comparisons between last season and this season. Might as well start with the opener.

Against the Bucks, there were pre-game jitters, mixed with curiosity and perhaps a hint of fear with Thunder players.

Against the Kings, there was noticeably more confidence.

"I think we showed last year we were a little nervous," forward Kevin Durant said an hour before tipoff against the Kings. "This year, we're more calm, more experienced, we know what we're going through being in Oklahoma City. I know we have a little bit of butterflies. Hopefully, they won't show too much."

No butterflies were evident as the Thunder hit seven of its first eight shots and led by double-digits from the 6:19 mark of the first quarter.

Against the Bucks, the Thunder scored 14 points the entire first quarter and trailed by as many as 24 in the third quarter.

Against the Kings, the Thunder had 14 points less than seven minutes into the game and led by as many as 23 in the third quarter.

"What should have been just a little run for them turned into an avalanche - 39 points in the first quarter," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "We were just trying to dig our way out the rest of the game."

Against the Bucks, Scott Brooks was an assistant under Carlesimo.

Against the Kings, Brooks was in his first game as Thunder head coach with no interim tag.

"In the back of my mind, I was trying to stay above water," Brooks said of last year's 23-59 season (22-47 under his watch). "Last season, I felt I had a great opportunity and I wasn't going to let the overwhelming season get me down or frustrate me. I was really focused on making sure our team was getting better. Now I know this team is really focused on me being the leader of this group."

There seemed to be a feeling-out process the entire 2008-09 season for the Thunder - new teammates, a new home, a new coach and new fans.

"It was just all so new," said guard Kyle Weaver, who was a rookie last season. "Now we have some time under our belts. We've been able to jell a little bit more, and the fans are ready, too.

"Now we've got to go out there and perform."

And the Thunder did on opening night.

More comparisons await between Year One and Year Two.

Here's hoping in the end, there's no comparison.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 31, 2009


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