OKLAHOMA CITY – The 76ers are set to face one of the teams they’re modeling themselves after.
The Oklahoma City Thunder is regarded as the A standard of the Western Conference. At 45-15, it has the conference’s best record. The Thunder also advanced to the 2012 NBA Finals, losing in five games to the Miami Heat.
But back in 2007, the franchise was in an all-out tank-mode just like the Sixers (15-45) are presently.
At the time, the Thunder was the Seattle SuperSonics before relocating to Oklahoma in 2008. The Sonics selected Kevin Durant out of Texas with the second overall pick in the 2007 draft before reshuffling their roster heading into its final season in Seattle.
“This is one of the main [franchises] that sort of becomes a natural association given the Kevin Durant ping-pong ball and the growth of the program,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said after shootaround for Tuesday night’s game against the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. “I think Nick [Collison] is the only carryover from those Seattle days.
“When you start looking at the attrition of the program, and how it was sort of naturally cleansed and weeded out and you look at what they have, it’s a really obvious example of what we aspire to grow to.”
A month after drafting Durant, the franchise traded future Hall of Famer Ray Allen and Glen Davis to the Boston Celtics for Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West. Then in July 2007, the Sonics conducted a sign-and-trade that sent Rashard Lewis to the Orlando Magic for a future second-round pick and a $9.5 million trade exception. They used the pick, another second-round pick, and the exception to acquire Kurt Thomas and two first-round picks from the Phoenix Suns.
The Sonics lost their first eight games and went 3-14 through the first month of the 2007 season. They finished with the second worst record (20-62) behind the Miami Heat (15-67).
But after relocating to Oklahoma City, the franchise selected Russell Westbrook (fourth overall) and Serge Ibaka (24th) in the first round of the 2008 draft. The Thunder reached the playoffs in the 2009-10 season. Two seasons after that, Oklahoma City reached the Finals.
“I know what goes on behind the scenes, the class and meticulous paying attention to all of the small details,” said Brown, a good friend of Thunder general manager Sam Presti. “What the public would see is the growth of a small program, because of the winning and losing. I think it’s all encompassing.
“It's one of the exciting things you start to look at this program is how you like to be like them.”
Follow and contact Inquirer 76ers beat writer Keith Pompey on Twitter @PompeyOnSixers