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Young, experienced Thunder might benefit from shortened season

by Darnell Mayberry Published: July 20, 2011

If the 2011-12 NBA season is a shortened one, the Oklahoma City Thunder just might have all the ingredients to do some serious damage.

As if things weren't lining up perfectly already for a surging Thunder franchise, the prospects of a condensed calendar of games now could benefit Oklahoma City more than any other team in the league.

The Thunder has five factors in its favor in the event the current lockout threatens its 82-game schedule, which was released Tuesday: youth, experience, health, depth and continuity.

No other team has as much in reserve in all five of those categories as the Thunder. It has to be an extremely cozy spot for Thunder fans, the vast majority of which expect nothing short of an NBA Finals appearance next season.

Though there is still time for owners and players to hash out a new collective bargaining agreement to save the start of the season, all signs point to a rather lengthy labor dispute and, ultimately, lost games.

The last time the league experienced a lockout a deal wasn't reached until early January, costing the first 32 regular season games. A revamped 50-game schedule that began Feb. 5 then had to be filled with back-to-backs and even three games in three nights. It was a taxing task for every team.

But the Thunder could very well plow through a similar schedule to that 1999 season.

It was San Antonio that did so that year, winning a league-best 37 games before earning its first NBA title. The Spurs made history with a mix of young and old, resiliency during the toughest stretches, a string of good health and roster continuity that is not much different from the Thunder's current core.

San Antonio's core of David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Avery Johnson, Sean Elliott, Jaren Jackson and Will Perdue played together the previous season, leading the Spurs to 56 wins. The Spurs' top 10 players in minutes that season all played at least 44 games. Robinson was the only regular starter to miss a game. And the Spurs went 18-8 in their 13 back-to-backs. They had two sets of triple-headers, or back-to-back-to-backs, winning the third game of each of those sets to bump their record to 20-8 in all back-to-backs.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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