The Thunder's inaugural season is over and while no one was satisfied with a 23-59 record, a decent showing the final 3 1/2 months has players excited about next season.
Near capacity crowds for nearly every game in the Ford Center made a strong impression on the players.
Many players loved the smaller city atmosphere. About the only negative was Oklahoma's unpredictable weather.
Players left Thursday and Friday for their respective off-season homes. Most will trickle into Oklahoma City on occasion but won't return en masse until October for training camp.
Before they left town, The Oklahoman asked players to talk about off-season goals, the inaugural season and what they liked and disliked about Oklahoma City.NICK COLLISON Off-season home: Seattle NBA players you work out with? Varies. Individual off-season goals: I need to get better shooting. I might have taken a small step backwards this year. I was more aggressive with my jump shot last year. This year I let it get away from me a little bit. I shot better at the end. That’s something I’ll always work on. As I get older that will be a huge weapon for me. Liked about Oklahoma City: The best thing is it’s so easy to get around. People were really helpful. The whole organization did a good job of being there for us. Disliked about Oklahoma City: It’s a smaller city. It’s kind of apples to oranges to where I was before (in Seattle). There’s things I like about a bigger city. But I definitely don’t have any complaints about Oklahoma City. The city has been great to us. KEVIN DURANT Off-season home: Washington, D.C. NBA players you will work out with? Jeff Green and Wizards players. Individual off-season goals: I’m trying to get stronger and better and come back a totally different player. Last year I did an OK job (with weight training). This year I need to step it up even more. I will start off with straight lifting, no basketball... I’d like to add about 10 or 11 pounds. Liked about Oklahoma City: Everybody who asks me back home, ‘How’s Oklahoma City?’ I tell them it’s a great place to live. This is where I want to be. I love that it’s small and it’s quiet. Of course, the fans were great. My neighbors are like family to me. I’m laid back and quiet. This kind of fi ts my personality. Disliked about Oklahoma City: It was tough waking up not knowing how it would be like outside. One day it might be 80, the next day it might snow. Damien Wilkins
Off-season home: Atlanta
NBA players you work out with? I go to Chicago and LA. A lot of different players.
Individual off-season goals: "Just getting home. I haven't planned anything. I had a birthday party (last weekend) for my son. I'll stay in shape and work on my game... I'd be lying if I said I didn't want more playing time. I want to be on the court."
Thunder's first season: "Given the circumstances of how quick the transition had to be it was a great season. The team got better. The fans were the best fans in the league. I really don't know how to put it in words. Being part of a season that meant so much to so many people is very humbling."
Liked about Oklahoma City: "The fans were great, so supportive. They embraced us on and off the floor. It was almost like being in college the way they supported us. If they did those things in college, the way they treated us, we'd have a lot of (NCAA) violations."
Disliked about Oklahoma City: "The wind was nerve wracking but I'd rather have wind than rain. (It might not be LA or Chicago) but LA and Chicago isn't Oklahoma City either. We travel so much you really don't notice the lack of whatever people say isn't here."Desmond Mason
Off-season home: Portland
NBA players you work out with? Blazers players.
Individual off-season goals: "I will stay here a couple more weeks and continue to work out. I'm about ready to run on a treadmill. As the summer progresses I'll be in and out of town, working out until something is done (and I sign with a team) later this summer. I've made it known I'd like to play here."
Thunder's first season: "From a team standpoint we definitely made progress, especially in the middle part of the season. Down the stretch we took a step back a little. Overall, the franchise, the Thunder, we had great fan support. That's what kept us in it. A lot of teams would have fallen apart. But having a packed house almost every night kept the guys up."
Liked about Oklahoma City: "I've got a built-in fan base, built-in relationships with a lot of people. I went to college here. I picked to come here and I've been back here twice to play here. Me personally, I love being here. Good family place to live."
Disliked about Oklahoma City: "The wind was tough this year. I don't think I've ever seen it blow like this. But I've been in the snow and the rain. I'll take the wind over both of those."Earl Watson
Off-season home: Los Angeles
NBA players you work out with? 30 to 40 different players.
Individual off-season goals: "Trying to get my hand back to normal which it finally is (healthy). After I had pins put in when I had thumb surgery last July I couldn't shoot or get reps which is critical for NBA players. I wasn't supposed to play until December or January but I just love basketball."
Thunder's first season: "It was an amazing 12 months coming from Seattle to Oklahoma City. It was little things like finding a place to live, finding your routine within a city, the grocery store, things like that."
Liked about Oklahoma City: "The fan support. When you get to the point you're trying to make a playoff run that support can make a difference, and make a big difference in a playoff series. The fans here are so amazing."
Disliked about Oklahoma City: "One day it can ice, the next day it can be 80. I'm either used to ice for long periods of time (in Kansas City where I grew up) or 80 (in Los Angeles), not where you have both back to back days."Malik Rose
Off-season home: San Antonio
NBA players you will work out with? Spurs players, other NBA players.
Individual off-season goals: "I just want to be on a team that's all about winning, all about basketball. I'd like to be here. I hope it happens to where I can stay here. Sam (Presti) has a big job, a big summer in front of him. Friends aside, relationships aside, he has to make this team better. I hope I fit into those plans. If I don't I'll know it wasn't anything personal."
Thunder's first season: "This last month to month and a half reignited the confidence in my game. I proved some things to myself. I'm pumped up going into the summer because for a long time I didn't know what I could do."
Liked about Oklahoma City: "I lived in San Antonio for a number of years and Oklahoma City is a lot like that. A safe city. Really friendly. It's safe, it's clean, it's warm in the winter."
Disliked about Oklahoma City: "I have to get used to the wind but other than that I really liked it. If you don't need to have a shovel (for snow) I'm excited."Jeff Green
Off-season home: Washington, D.C.
NBA players you will work out with? Kevin Durant, Wizards players.
Individual off-season goals: "Everything. Get better all around. Being consistent. Dribbling. Last year shooting was No. 1 and probably is again. But this time it will be more of an all-around thing."
Thunder's first season: "We started off the season 3-and what? 29? We came together. We didn't quit on each other. We kept working hard. We had our spirits up high each game. Every game we came in thinking we could win. That's how we overcame that 3-29 and got better as the season went along. With the additions we'll get this summer I think next year will be a pretty good year."
Liked about Oklahoma City: "It's very relaxing. The people are lovely. It wasn't just the fans. My neighbors are amazing. It's quiet. There's not too much going on. I like to stay at home and relax. This was a great city to do that. That helped me a lot with my rest."
Disliked about Oklahoma City: "I have no dislikes. I'm not a city guy, a club hopper. I like to stay home and relax... As for the weather, it snows a lot and is cold in D.C. The weather is a lot better here than D.C. Sometimes you get upset when it's 81 one day and 40 the next but you get used to it."Kyle Weaver
Off-season home: Beloit, Wis.
NBA players you will work out with? None. College, overseas players.
Individual off-season goals: "I need to work on my physical strength. I'll be in the weight room a lot and change my body."
Thunder's first season: "I don't know if I could put my finger on one thing. We were climbing our way up. We had a rocky start. We lost a coach. Then we started to get a feel how to win games. A big win the last game hopefully sets the tone for the summer."
Liked about Oklahoma City: "It reminds me of home. It's calm, not really crazy. It's real laid back, a community feel. That's what I'm used to. I'm not used to bad traffic and big city lights. It wasn't hard for me to adjust."
Disliked about Oklahoma City: "The weather was pretty crazy. I'm used to the snow. It was good with a lot less snow but the wind made up for it. It gets really windy here."Russell Westbrook
Off-season home: Los Angeles
NBA players you will work out with? 20 to 30 players at UCLA.
Individual off-season goals: "Just try and get better overall, get ready for next year."
Thunder's first season: "How much fun we had as a team, how much we got along, the growth of the team. We had some trades and lost some games early but everyone stuck together."
Liked about Oklahoma City: "The people, the fans, were the best thing. It's slow compared to LA. There life is a lot faster. The traffic is a lot better here. In LA, good luck. "
Disliked about Oklahoma City: "The weird thing is how the weather switches. LA isn't really like that. Here you never know what may happen. It may be hot one day, the next day it may be raining or cold. I like the weather in LA."Shaun Livingston
Off-season home: Chicago
NBA players you will work out with? Dwyane Wade. Michael Finley. Other players.
Individual off-season goals: "Explosion and strength and reaction time. Explosion will help my defense. That's the biggest thing. I'm going to work really hard on my knee to try and get that explosion back."
Thunder's first season: "Really enjoyed it. The first time to play in this building, really the first time to play that many minutes since my injury, meant a lot to me."
Liked about Oklahoma City: "The people in general. How can you not talk about the fans. People are so genuine. It's different for me because LA and Miami, where I played before, everything is so fast. They're big cities. There's more media. Here it's a nice change of pace."
Disliked about Oklahoma City: "Not as fast as pace works both ways. It helps you focus on your job but there's not much to do on nights you're bored."D.J. White
Off-season home: Tuscaloosa, Ala.
NBA players you will work out with? Unknown.
Individual off-season goals: "I need to get back to my normal weight, 235 or 240 (pounds). I'm about 222 right now. And improve on my overall game. I think I showed I can score inside and outside. Basically just get better all around."
Thunder's first season: "The best memory for me was I got to play seven games at the end after missing 70-something games. It was a lot of fun to finally play in the NBA."
Liked about Oklahoma City: "I really like the people. Nice people. It's a quiet place, laid back, kind of where I'm from. I'm not from a big city. I really don't like big cities."
Disliked about Oklahoma City: "The weather. You step outside one day it's 70, the next day it's snowing. That's really the only thing I didn't like."Thabo Sefolosha
Off-season home: Switzerland
NBA players you will work out with? No one. National team.
Individual off-season goals: "I'll be in Europe most of the summer. After the draft I'll come back to be with some of the guys. I'll also play with our national team... (Individually) my goal is to improve my offensive game, shooting the ball. Definitely a lot of shooting. It's no secret a lot of repetition makes it better. A lot of hours in the gym."
Thunder's first season: "We have so many young guys, a very talented group of guys. If we keep working, keep getting better, it can be a lot different next year. I think it can be a pretty good season when we get back to work for next year."
Liked about Oklahoma City: "I feel comfortable here. I like the city. I'll tell (friends) it's a good city and instead of Chicago they have to come to Oklahoma. Everything is within walking distance downtown. That helps with family, going to restaurants. And the weather is much better than Chicago."
Disliked about Oklahoma City: "Nothing really. I'm pretty happy with the traffic here. A lot different than Chicago."Robert Swift
Off-season home: Bakersfield, Calif.
NBA players you will work out with? Spencer Hawes. Random guys from Washington, California.
Individual off-season goals: "Just play. I'll play a lot of pick up ball in Seattle and Sacramento. My parents live in Seattle. I'll be going back and forth."
Thunder's first season: "There is no other team in the NBA that has fans like we do. It was fun to play here every night. You want all the games to be at home. From the McDonald's game I played here, there's always been great support. The Hornets and then this season. They're great fans."
Liked about Oklahoma City: "It reminds me of home. This is a little bigger but I really liked it here. Liked it a lot. I can wear my (cowboy) boots and fit right in."
Disliked about Oklahoma City: "There was nothing I really didn't like. The winds pick up here a little more than anyplace I've ever lived. But in Seattle it rained all the time."Nenad Krstic
Off-season home: Serbia
NBA players you will work out with? None. Play on the national team.
Individual off-season goals: "My conditioning was not so good when I came here. I will work hard on that this summer."
Thunder's first season: "Coming back from Russia, and getting back in the NBA, it felt great to be part of a great league again. This is a new organization that was really nice to me. It was good to start winning some games. Hopefully next year is going to be that much better."
Liked about Oklahoma City: "The best thing is no traffic at all. When I wake up in the morning it's only five minutes to practice. It's easy to come back home, too."
Disliked about Oklahoma City: "Restaurants close at 10 (p.m.). People in Serbia we'll eat dinner at 11 or midnight. That's pretty much normal. After a game here there are not a lot of restaurants that are open."
Editors's note: The profiles on Nick Collison and Kevin Durant were missing for a time, but have been added to the article.