Thunder fans have shown they're loyal, even if their new NBA team started the season 2-24 and reached the halfway point with a league-worst 8-33 record. Bolstered by eight sellouts, fans have purchased 97.2 percent of tickets available in the 19,136-seat Ford Center. That averages out to 535 tickets below capacity through 23 home games. After interviewing dozens of fans the past two weeks, the consensus is:
Scott Brooks has a higher approval rating than any U.S. President ever experienced.
Most fans are patient, knowing a young team would have a lot of losses this season.
General manager Sam Presti's meticulous approach to building a roster is a good plan.
Fans are ecstatic to have their own NBA team after adopting the Hornets for two years.
Players involvement in the community is a big plus for Oklahoma City.
Seats in the Ford Center will be filled for years to come, solidifying the team's future.
One area where fans disagree is how long it will take before the Ford Center hosts NBA playoff games.
The majority believes “contending” for the playoffs is a reasonable goal in two seasons. A few believe it could happen as soon as next season. Others say it will take three or four more years.
John Williams, 47
(season tickets — section 110)
“The atmosphere has really improved. The whole product is getting a lot better. It's a fun time. You expected them to lose a lot of games this first year, but you can see a lot of improvement under (Scott) Brooks. They're competitive. That's the big thing. If games were 47 minutes long, we'd have at least four more wins. I really like the team they're putting on the floor with (Nenad) Krstic, but the playoffs are probably at least two or three years down the line.”
Kim Lanier, 53
(season tickets — section 319)
“They're entertaining. The game is what I come to see no matter who is on the floor. Every time you go to a game you see some of the best 500 players in the world. How can you go wrong with that? Sure, you'd like to see a few more familiar names. The record can't get much worse, but this team has a lot of upside. I like what they're doing. I'm glad it's not me that has to make the decisions (on trades and draft picks). They know so much more than the average fan. For us to second guess them would be ridiculous.”
Kenneth Jackson, 39
(only one game but a big fan)
“What I like most is they've been involved in the community and have gotten involved with the inner-city schools. I like about everything they've done. I really don't think they need to trade anybody at this point. They say (Chris) Wilcox and (Earl) Watson are on the trading block, but I like both of them. We need veterans to train the young guys about the NBA, someone to teach them. I really like what I've seen as of late. I'd say next year they could make a run at the playoffs.”
John Frizzell, 69
(season tickets — section 305)
“Things have gone real well since we had a change in the coaching staff. They're much more aggressive, and they don't fall on their face in the second half. I like all the moves they've made. Since they brought in the new guy (Nenad Krstic), you can see the improvement. They're young right now, but the next year or two, there's going to be a lot of free agents. You'd love to see them win every game, but you have to build. We're not like (George) Steinbrenner to where we have the money to start at the top.”
Mike Dumont, 39
(season tickets — section 310)
“They're progressing. They just traded for (Nenad Krstic) that is helping give us more of a presence at center. They're making the right moves. It's going to be a slow process. It's not hard to root for them because they make it a lot of fun to come to games. It's good entertainment. But in a year or two, you would definitely expect to see some progress, at least 30 to 40 wins. I like their young players a lot, (Russell) Westbrook, (Jeff) Green, and of course, (Kevin) Durant. It's their big guys inside that are hurting them more than anything.”
Bob Bodin, 52
“The changes they're already making, and the draft picks, they're setting themselves up to be pretty solid in a couple of years. Fans need to be patient with a positive attitude. With the changes they're making right now with the roster, and having three first-round draft picks this next year, there's nothing but good can that come out of it. The coaching change was a huge plus. Refereeing college basketball, you can see from the intensity of the players the impact the coaching staff has had on this team.”
(season tickets — section 307)
“It's definitely better than when the season first started. I still have some concerns about the way Scott (Brooks) does his rotations. If they're not playing well, they need to come out regardless of salary or where they were drafted. This team has great potential. They're kind of like the Hornets that first year. I think they will really improve. I know we have the potential (cap space) to get some really good players, but I like the roster we have now. We have some great guys. If you give some of them more minutes, they could step up and do great.”
“I went to every Hornets game. I haven't missed a Thunder game. It was tough at first but they've been turning it around the last few weeks. That gives you hope something good is going to happen. I really like what I see out of Kevin Durant and Sam Presti.” — Kyle Harris, 34, Edmond.
“We really enjoy the games. As long as they're giving good effort, to be honest, the wins and losses this first season don't matter. Three or four years down the road it will be different. It's just good to have them in the city. It's a good time.” — Steven Manis, Oklahoma City.
“The change of coaches was a good move. Scottie Brooks is doing an outstanding job. The last 10 to 12 games they've come together as a team. I'm very impressed. They need another big man to go with (Nenad) Krstic. I say they could get into the first round of the playoffs the year after next.” — Todd Tipton, 53, Edmond.
“It was really hard to watch a bad basketball team early. They've gotten better the past two or three weeks, but the first month was brutal. They need a lot more good players. It's going to take the ownership group to be willing (to spend money) to bring in some veterans. We can't just count on the draft.” — Don Heath, 51.
“Their point guards — (Russell) Westbrook and (Earl) Watson — are excellent. Do not get rid of Watson. Those two are the lightning to this Thunder team. They're gelling. It's coming together. They need to stay with Scott (Brooks). I see them in the playoffs in two years.” — Corkey Heiskell, 62, Choctaw.
“If we were expected to make the playoffs it would be a different story. I understand they're trying to build a team. And this way, we will get more ping pong balls (for the lottery). I want us to win, but you always get to see the best players in the world.” — Jerry Cochran, Jr., 26, Yukon.
“I like the way things have been going under the new coach, the direction the program is going. Early on it was very frustrating. But now it's a lot better. I'll definitely keep coming to the games. We knew they were young. They're just one or two players away from getting to that next level.” — Eric Shaw, 26, Oklahoma City.
“I grew up in Chicago. I'm a Cubs fan. I've been dealing with being patient all my life. I understand they're young and weren't expected to win this year. They'll be much better in the future.” — Fred Smith, 48, Oklahoma City.