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Ignore naysayers - city can attract free agents

By Darnell Mayberry Modified: July 14, 2008 at 1:15 am •  Published: July 14, 2008
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Kevin Durant will be on the first thing smoking out of Oklahoma City the second he becomes a free agent, and Oklahoma City's new NBA franchise can forget about luring any quality players on the open market to replace him.

How many times have you heard or read those sentiments over the past week?

It's what the national naysayers want you to believe, and of course it's all nonsense and the naysayers are nitwits.

Not all NBA players are searching for big cities and bright lights.

Ask small market franchises in Salt Lake City and Memphis and Sacramento and Milwaukee and Indianapolis and New Orleans about their recent history with free agents.

When Charlotte became a first-time major league city in 1988 with the Hornets — a widely criticized expansion city at the time — All-Stars Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning had more problems playing with each other in the early 1990s than in their host city.

Oklahoma City will be fine.

Three things generally entice players into signing with a franchise and committing to a city: Money, acceptance and winning.

"You've got players interested in New Orleans for one reason,” said one former NBA coach, "because they can play with Chris Paul. So if (Oklahoma City) starts doing good, that's what attracts free agents.

"Because what do you do during the season anyway? Go to practice, play and travel. And when you're an NBA player and you have money you go to your off-season home, your hometown or on a cruise for month and a half.”

That's the winning end of it.

"I think it's going to be kind of easy,” Jeff Green said of the franchise's ability to recruit and retain free agents. "When you hear about when the Hornets were there, the reaction that the fans gave, it's nothing but positive things. And that's what a player looks for going into a new city, seeing how the fans react and how the community reacts.

"So just the excitement of the fans and the atmosphere is always a plus. And that's one of the good things I've been hearing about Oklahoma, and I feel like that will attract a lot of good players.”

That's the acceptance end of it..

Now comes the money end and the all-so important provision in the NBA collective bargaining agreement that allows teams to outbid the opposition and exceed the salary cap to retain their own free agents.

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