For Oklahoma City Thunder fans, the 2008-09 season seems like a long time ago.
That was the team’s first year in Oklahoma City after relocating from Seattle. The Thunder lost 12 of its first 13 games, leading to the firing of coach P.J. Carlesimo. A turnaround under Scott Brooks came slowly — at one point, the Thunder was just 3-29.
But eventually things did begin to improve. Oklahoma City finished the year with 23 victories, which was a three-game improvement over the previous year.
The next season, the Thunder exceeded all expectations by winning 50 games and giving the Los Angeles Lakers all they wanted before losing in the first round of the playoffs. A year later the victory total climbed to 55, and Durant, Westbrook and Co. reached the Western Conference finals.
Then came last season, which was delayed by a lockout but wound up being well worth the wait — the Thunder won the West before losing to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
Shortly before this season began, the Thunder traded away supersub James Harden in a deal that left fans and media wondering how the team would manage. Turns out, pretty well.
A victory over Sacramento on Monday night gave the Thunder 60 wins and home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs, which begin this weekend. Sixty-win seasons are rare — it’s happened 68 times in the NBA’s 64-year history. The Thunder and the Boston Celtics of 1956-60 are the only franchises to improve their winning percentages in five straight seasons and have two of those percentages be in the .700s.
Brooks, general manager Sam Presti and indeed the entire organization deserve credit. They’ve transformed Oklahomans from folks who were excited about having an NBA team into rabid fans who will be disappointed by anything short of another Finals trip.
And they’ve done it all in just five years. Kudos, and good luck.