If you ever doubted the statement “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” then you better open your eyes and take a look at the golden fountain of success spewing victory all over Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (29-7) are off to their best start in franchise, well, in OKC Thunder history. As are the Oklahoma City Barons (35- 15-2-3). Both are currently in first place in their respective Western Conferences and are threats to bring OKC the first professional sports championship since 1996 when the Oklahoma City RedHawks won the Pacific Coast League title.
Ironically, the Thunder and Barons were simply other cities’ trash the season before arriving in the city founded during the Land Run of 1889.
Seattle refused to build an arena in 2007 for the then- SuperSonics, and could you blame them? The team had won just one championship in their 41-year history and in their final season (2007-08), they had a franchise-low 20 wins. In their last 10 years in Seattle, the team made it past the first round of the NBA playoffs just once and had only four records above .500 while compiling an overall record of 374-414.
Just as the Supersonics’ boxes were being sealed and delivered to Oklahoma City, the Edmonton Oilers were beginning an agreement with the Springfield Falcons right here in Springfield, Mass., to serve as the main affiliate for the American Hockey League franchise prior to activating their defunct AHL franchise in Oklahoma City.
Yet, things were no different for the Oilers’ affiliate from the Sonics’ final seasons.
As any Springfield hockey fan can tell you, the Falcons, regardless of who their affiliate has been, have been pretty awful over the last 10-plus years. Thirteen straight losing seasons to be exact.
Yet, things could not have been much worse during the Falcons’ three-year stint as the Oilers’ affiliate. During their final season as partners on the ice for the 2009-10 season, the Falcons went on a franchise-high 17-game losing streak, registering just five points during that stretch from Nov. 25 to Jan 1. The team finished the season as the only team in the AHL not to win over 30 games with a 25-39-12-4 record. It was just one more win for the Falcons from the year prior when Springfield went 24-44-8-4.
Since these absolutely horrid moments for the Seattle Sonics and the Edmonton Oilers’ affiliates, the teams have developed a completely new identity in OKC.
After improving by just three wins in their inaugural season in 2008-09, the Thunder have gone on to post 50-plus wins in back-to-back seasons. Last year, behind the efforts of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder legitimized themselves as the team of the future in the NBA after losing in the Western Conference Finals to the eventual-NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.
The Thunder have risen to the top of the NBA behind Kevin Durant, the 2012 NBA All-Star Game MVP.
The Barons’ turnaround is even more impressive after the Oilers’ top affiliate improved by 25 points from their final season in Springfield. The Barons, featuring a good portion of those same lowly Falcons, went on to lose in the first round of the AHL playoffs to Hamilton after going 40-29-2-9.
It is obvious each team was able to rebuild through good draft picks and precise decisions by their respective front offices, but to have such a strong turnaround by two separate, relocated franchises in one city is simple remarkable.
You can even take this one step further. After Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Hornets played two seasons in OKC. Granted, they did not make it to the postseason during their stint, but they, too, improved greatly by playing in the “Frontier Country of Oklahoma.” After posting a franchise-low 18-64 record in 2004-05, the Oklahoma City/ New Orleans Hornets doubled their win total with records of 38-44 and 39-43 the next two seasons.
Another horrid team and another amazing turnaround.
What on earth is causing these turnarounds?
The simple answer must be that there is something in the water. Or is there a special box of Wheaties being fed to Oklahoma City athletes at breakfast? I mean, wheat is grown in Oklahoma.
But who knows? Maybe this is all just a fluke. Three straight teams with amazing turnarounds.
Do you still doubt any of this has to do with Oklahoma City? Well, just rotate the entire state of Oklahoma to the right. What do you get?
A foam No. 1 finger.
Justin Felisko can be reached at email@example.com