OKC Thunder? A Storm is a Brewing…

After speculation for the better part of a month that the NBA’s newest franchise in Oklahoma City would be nicknamed “Thunder,” the league’s Web site seemingly ended the speculation Wednesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon, the speculation could resume.
As the league announced their 2008-09 season schedule, the link to the OKC team page directed visitors to a www.nba.com/thunder link to start the day Wednesday, but that would be replaced by a www.nba.com/oklahomacity link that would appear later that afternoon.

The link to the Thunder page is an inactive web page, leaving visitors to stare at a white screen. As expected the league and team spokesman Dan Mahoney refused to comment, furthering the suspense in OKC to label the city’s only major sports franchise as its own, all be it without a name. While the league and franchise are keeping the city and nation on hold, it seems to be a safe bet that the announcement of the Oklahoma City Thunder is all but inevitable, since clicking on a Seattle link on the NBA’s site directs visitors to a http://www.nba.com/schedules/?team=thunder link.

The league has filed for trademarks on six nicknames for the franchise total, including Thunder, but in light of the fact that ownership of the franchise has purchased the domain name okcthunderbasketball.com, it seems likely that the search for a team nickname has ended and now it is simply time to wait on the official announcement of the team colors.

One thing is certain; the new OKC team will premiere at home against Michael Redd and the Milwaukee Bucks on Oct. 29 on the Ford Center floor for the first time. Other notable home matchups include Nov. 5 against the defending World Champion Boston Celtics, and the return of the New Orleans Hornets on Nov. 21 and Feb. 17 (with the Nov. 21 meeting aired nationally on ESPN). LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavs come to OKC on Dec. 21, and the league’s defending MVP Kobe Bryant brings the Los Angeles Lakers to town on Feb. 24.

The team seems to be transitioning well to their new surroundings. Last month, they agreed to a broadcast agreement with Citadel Broadcasting, allowing WWLS “The Sports Animal” to broadcast all of the team’s home and away games. WWLS will also be the flagship station of a statewide network broadcasting all of the team’s preseason, season and postseason games.

While it is yet to be seen how competitive the young upstart OKC team can be, the excitement in the NBA’s newest city is merely growing day-by-day in anticipation. Led by last season’s Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant, second-year player Jeff Green and No. 5 overall draft pick Russell Westbrook, the new team looks to change the culture of a team that won only 20 games a season ago.

Last year, Durant averaged 20.3 ppg to go along with 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assist a contest, although often in a losing effort. Now poised for his second season, Durant figures to emerge as a NBA superstar and have more shades of brilliance like he showed in a 42-point effort against Golden State on April 16.

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