The Thunder checks out — players share their impressions of the team and Oklahoma City

By Mike Baldwin Modified: April 20, 2009 at 3:37 pm •  Published: April 20, 2009

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."

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