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Oklahoma City's NBA fortunes could have been a flop had Hornets stayed

The Hornets are not the team Oklahoma City enjoyed while New Orleans recovered from Hurricane Katrina. Chris Paul is gone. David West is gone. Tyson Chandler is gone.
by Jenni Carlson Modified: February 20, 2012 at 5:21 pm •  Published: February 20, 2012

What happened here Sunday night caused quite the buzz Monday.

And why not?

While there have been tens of thousands of NBA games over the decades, there has never been one quite like the Thunder's overtime thriller against the Nuggets. Kevin Durant scored 51 points. Russell Westbrook scored 40 points. And Serge Ibaka posted a triple-double that included a whopping 11 blocked shots.

Never before had such stats been posted by one team in one game in the history of the league.

“It was fun for everybody involved — the fans, the players, our staff,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “It was a lot of big performances.”

And all of them were rolled into one grand game.

Twitter and Facebook went bonkers. Ditto for the water coolers and the sports talk. ESPN even stopped the Linsanity long enough to mention it.

Oklahoma City is on top of the basketball world.

Ironic that New Orleans was the team that came to The Peake on Monday night amid the lingering hullabaloo.

This is a team that has won fewer games this season than Oklahoma City has won this month. This is a franchise struggling almost as much in the front office as it is on the court. This is a bunch that our fair city once clamored to keep.

Ever heard the saying that sometimes the best gifts are unanswered prayers?

It's not just that the Hornets looked as bad as their record in a 101-93 loss to the Thunder.

It's more than that. Yes, Chris Paul is gone. Ditto for David West and Tyson Chandler. The fact that the Hornets made things interesting Monday with guys like Jarrett Jack, Al-Farouq Aminu and Greivis Vasquez was more about the Thunder letting up after leading by 26 points.

But the truth is, the Hornets are just as much of a train wreck off the court as they are on it.

Since returning to New Orleans, the Hornets have had one calamity after another. Bad finances. Bad attendance. Bad management. Things eventually got so horrendous that the NBA purchased the franchise in late 2010.

That hasn't exactly helped matters.

The league's ties to the team caused a firestorm when NBA commissioner David Stern voided a trade that would've sent Paul to the Lakers. Eventually, the superstar point guard was traded to the Clippers, but the Hornets ended up with less than they would've gotten in the first deal.

Now, they have a chance to head into the All-Star Break with one of the worst records in the league, second only to Charlotte.

I'll be the first to admit — I wanted the Hornets to stay as much as anyone in the 405 area code. They were winning. They were exciting. And frankly, they were here.

It was difficult to imagine when or how or even if another NBA franchise would ever come our way. The league wasn't looking to expand back in 2007, and the most of the existing franchises didn't seem to be heading anywhere.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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