While some believe the Thunder might win 10 to 15 more games after trading for veterans Desmond Mason and Joe Smith, and drafting rookies Russell Westbrook and D.J. White, ESPN.com isn't as optimistic. A panel of 25 ESPN writers predicts the Thunder will finish 23-59 and tie Memphis for the worst record in the league. ESPN's comment: It will be one long thunderous pep rally for Oklahoma's new team. Even if OKC appears to be the NBA's worst team, nothing can dampen local optimism. For more pre-season picks from ESPN.com, and pre-season magazines, go to Mike Baldwin's blog on Thundermadness.com. •New coaches: Several new coaches open training camp this week. Each inherits a unique challenge. Can Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks once again be a playoff threat or is Carlisle captain of a sinking ship? Will Terry Porter, Carlisle's replacement in Phoenix, lead a deep playoff run or is Porter captain of a sinking ship? Can rebuilding master Larry Brown turn Charlotte into a playoff contender in a year or two? Will first-time coach Michael Curry lead the Pistons to the NBA Finals or was firing Flip Saunders a panic move? Can Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley's longtime assistant, lead the Heat back to the playoffs after the league's worst record? Will Mike D'Antoni turn around the salary-cap challenged Knicks or pine for days the Suns scored 110 points a night? Can first-time coach Vinny Del Negro, and No. 1 pick Derrick Rose, turn the Bulls into a viable Eastern Conference threat? •Old faces, new places: In case you've been too busy watching football, listed below are some players that have switched teams: Elton Brand (76ers); Jermaine O'Neal (Raptors); Baron Davis (Clippers); Ron Artest (Rockets); Richard Jefferson (Bucks); T.J. Ford (Pacers); Mo Williams (Cavaliers); Corey Maggette (Warriors); Mike Miller (T-Wolves); James Posey (Hornets); Marcus Camby (Clippers); Eduardo Najera (Nets). •Good to go: Greg Oden's NBA debut with Portland is Oct. 28 against Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers. Oden, the No. 1 pick in 2007, missed the entire season with an ACL injury. Oden, who rode a mountain bicycle for 10 days in Hawaii late this summer to test the knee, said he's fully recovered. Three other high-profile players coming off injuries also are optimistic: Dwayne Wade (Miami) showed in the Olympics his knee is healed. Andrew Bynum (Lakers) expects to be fully recovered from a dislocated kneecap. Yao Ming (Houston) wasn't 100 percent in the Olympics, but his foot injury didn't suffer a setback in China.
Some believe the Thunder might win 10 to 15 more games this season after trading for veterans like Desmond Mason. By matt strasen, the oklahoman