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.