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OKC Thunder: Despite its pluses, Oklahoma City still can't compete with some of the bigger markets

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: July 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm •  Published: July 28, 2013

Our NBA education continues.

On the heels of the first season that fell short of expectations thanks to a freak knee injury, the events of the past three weeks have brought a harsh but important lesson.

Players still don't want to play in Oklahoma City.

Because of the Thunder's rise, its supremely talented roster and its super passionate fans, we'd like to think players are willing to jump through hoops to play here. But as five years have taught us they're just not.

It's not something Thunder players, coaches or management can publicly admit without it sounding disparaging to their host city. Yet it's been a chief reason why the Thunder historically hasn't been players in the free agent market.

This summer has been no different. Oklahoma City's idleness this year, however, has only felt worse because its second-round exit was followed by its conference rivals spending the summer splurging to stock up on talent. But even when the Thunder tried to improve, the team's efforts failed.

Mike Miller last week became the second free agent this offseason to turn down Oklahoma City. He joined Dorell Wright in that vein. Most disturbing is how Miller took a pass despite Kevin Durant, the face of the Thunder franchise and widely considered the world's second-best player, reportedly taking it upon himself to recruit Miller.

But in Miller's case, choosing Memphis over OKC had much more to do with familiarity. Miller played for the Grizzlies for 51/2 seasons and still has a home in the area as well as strong ties in the community. Wright, meanwhile, simply pounced on a slightly more lucrative offer from Portland.

Those two examples, although representative of challenges every team faces in free agency, only scratch the surface of the obstacles the Thunder is annually faced with.

The side effect of Oklahoma City's stacked roster is twofold: the Thunder no longer has ample money or minutes to offer. A player might sacrifice one or the other but rarely both.

Even in the rare instances when those two things might be equal to a rival team, Oklahoma City can't compete with some other places' perceived quality of life. When allowed to choose freely, players often opt for a city that offers a bigger metropolis or magnificent beaches or no state taxes or whatever else it is that young and rich hearts desire.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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