Stranded in Vegas

By Michael Kinney

Suzanne Parrish just wanted to get home. After spending a fun-filled weekend in Las Vegas with  members of the Lawton Eisenhower 25 year class reunion, she was ready to get back to Oklahoma and her life.

However, when it was time for Parrish and more than 200 other Oklahomans to return home Sunday, the trip turned into a travel nightmare that was filled with flight cancellations, delays, anger and fatigue.

The toughest part was the disappointment knowing my daughter was going to miss school to prepare for her finals for college and not getting home to my other two children,” Parrish said. “Worried I didn’t have enough money for us.  Not knowing what our next step was very stressful. Panic over took my thoughts until I had to calm myself down and get in survival mode.”

Most of the problems centered around Allegiant Airlines, a small carrier based in Las Vegas. Allegiant offers non stop routes between Oklahoma City and Las Vegas at considerably lower prices than the major airlines.

However, Sunday, none of that mattered to the hundreds of Oklahomans who arrived as the McCarran International Airport to find out their flights had been canceled due to mechanical reasons. No other explanation was given.

While that is a common occurrence when dealing with air travel, what made the Allegiant situation worse is they only fly to Oklahoma City on Sunday and Thursday. So they informed the passengers they would have to wait in Las Vegas for four days until the next scheduled flights.

Delayed I could have dealt with better than canceled until Thursday,” Parrish said. “But I was in shock they would cancel a flight without trying to help find accommodation for something else. Pure panic took over my thoughts.”

Allegiant Customer Relations emailed a letter to passengers stuck at the airport. It read “We regret to inform you that your upcoming Allegiant flight 454 originally scheduled to to depart McCarran International Airport (LAS) to Will Rogers World Airport (OKC) on Sunday, July 23 at 04:03 pm has been canceled.”

While some passengers were able to get on flights to Tulsa the rest of the more than 200 Oklahomans were left to fend for themselves to find a way home or other accommodations.

I started looking for flights that didn’t cost over $1,500. Allegiant didn’t offer anything, or any way to get out of Las Vegas,” Parrish said. “That was on us to find. I started Looking for airports that would be seven hours less driving hoping Allegiant could take me to. Tulsa was all booked. I took Kansas City since it would arrive by 1 p.m. on Monday and that would give me time to drive a rental car and get home in reasonable hour. Left McCarran around 10 p.m. and found a close hotel to get sleep. Monday I arrived back at McCarran at 6 a.m. to catch the 8 a.m. flight to Kansas City.”

That was when things really got strange.

The plane boarded, drove a small distance then turned around due to mechanical problems again, then unboarded. They told us to go to another terminal, then we loaded on another plane only to get unloaded again,” Parrish said. “I decided I wasn’t going to take the risk having to stay another night. The plane boarded again and unboarded again. I was to scared to even ride in the plane now. I bought another ticket on Southwest to get me to Dallas. Bought a rental car in Dallas arrived home around 3 a.m. Tuesday.”

Parrish, who was traveling with her daughter, spent more than $1,000 to make it home. She said she refused to take the $300 the airline offered passengers as a refund.

But it wasn’t just Allegiant that had problems. Lt. Colonel Chris Washington’s American Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Philadelphia was delayed two hours because a flight attendant didn’t show up and a backup had to be called in.

When I got to my follow-on destination, I had missed my connecting flight to Germany,” Washington said. “I was rerouted to London and then Munich. The missed connection extended my travel time by eight hours. Not to mention, I had to ask for a food voucher. The airline wasn’t going to offer any compensation for my troubles.”

Laura Christensen Smith flew to Las Vegas Friday on Allegiant. When their flight was delayed several hours, that should have been a sign a problem was coming.

However, Smith flew on American Airlines leaving Las Vegas to Dallas Fort. Worth. After landing around 5:30 a.m. she found out her flight to Oklahoma City had been canceled due to weather on the East coast.

We were taken gate to gate to just to be on standby,” Smith said. “I was like, this is ridiculous. There were 50 something people on standby trying to take the next flight to Oklahoma City. There was no way we were getting out that day.”

The airline offered no alternatives to Smith, who had been awake since Sunday morning. They were stuck at the airport for six hours until another passenger informed her of flights into Lawton.

Smith jumped on the next flight to Lawton, stayed the night, then drove home Tuesday morning. She arrived at her residence almost two days later than her original schedule.

While Smith said her experiences didn’t ruin her trip, Parrish couldn’t make the same statement. The great time she had with her Lawton Eisenhower classmates fell victim to the travel process.

I had a great time in Vegas but it totally ruined my trip,” Parrish said. “Overwhelming panic caused both of us not to want to travel to Vegas again. It’s a memory that won’t go away.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Let the courting begin

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

Paul George walked onto the stage at Jones Assembly seemingly unaware of what he was in store for. Deck out in a custom fitted gray suit, white shirt and brown striped tie, he was immediately hit with a loud and continuous cheer from more than a 1,000 Oklahoma City fans Wednesday night.

As the cheers got louder, George paced the staged patting his heart to show how much he appreciated the gesture.

For the Thunder, the start of their courtship of George could not have gotten off to a better start.

It’s really been awesome. You can’t script this any other way,” George said. “It’s been an unbelievable trip. I’ve been wowed ever since I landed. This feels like home.”

Having George’s introductory press conference at the Jones Assembly and 21c Museum and Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City is all part of Thunder’s new philosophy. Instead of holding the pressers at their old practice facility in Edmond, the Thunder are being more proactive and show the players and the rest of the NBA a different side of the area.

This offseason it began with first round draft pick Terrance Ferguson having his press conference at the boathouse on the Oklahoma River. Then on Tuesday, free agent signees Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton were introduced at the Aloft Hotel overlooking the city.

It’s new. It’s progressive. It’s different and it’s fresh,” General Manager Sam Presti said. “That’s important for the organization going into the 10th year anniversary of the team.”

But the Thunder saved their biggest move for George, who they acquired in a trade for Victor Oladipo and Domas Sabonis.

George, who had played his entire career in Indiana, has one year left on his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2017-18 season.

George had made it known in the past of his desire to return to his hometown of Los Angeles and play for the Lakers. So many believe the Thunder are just renting the 4-time All-Star for one season before he bolts for L.A.

When George was asked what could keep him in Oklahoma City past this season, he wouldn’t allow himself to be pinned down.

Because George left the door open that there is a chance he could stay with the Thunder, the franchise started its recruiting pitch the moment George flew into Oklahoma City Tuesday afternoon. He was greeted by more than 500 fans chanting “PG,” “PG.”

That excitement and fanfare spread over into the Welcome Party the next night. With his family by his side, George got a small taste of what he can expect throughout the rest of the season.

I don’t want to say this too soon,” George said. “I felt the passion behind it. I love the connection that I had. That’s something that can’t be replaced ever.”

There is no way to tell how sincere George is about keeping the Thunder as an option in free agency. Thunder fans learned the hard way a year ago that what players say one day can be completely reversed the next.

However, all Presti wanted was a seat at the table. A chance to show George what the team has to offer and how he can fit into what they hope is a future NBA championship level team.

Presti, coach Billy Donovan, MVP Russell Westbrook, the rest of the team and the Thunder fans have an entire season to convince George of that.

Paul really wants to win. It’s important to him,” Donovan said. “As a coach you have to do the best job you can each and every day to put him and the rest of the team in a position to play well. That’s a process that has to take place every single day.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Thunder get older, better with new additions

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY– “I’m a country boy.”

That was how newest Oklahoma City Thunder Patrick Patterson helped explain how he felt about coming to Oklahoma City during an introductory press conference held on the sixth floor of the Aloft Hotel Tuesday.

Patterson was asked what it will be like living in a small city like Oklahoma City after playing for bigger metropolitans such as Houston and Toronto.

Sitting next to Raymond Felton, who also signed Monday night with the Thunder, Patterson explained why the former Toronto Raptor is not worried about the change.

Well, I’m a country boy, I’m from the south, so this is basically home to me out here,” Patterson said. “So the pros are definitely me being comfortable out here. Although it’s not a big city like you said like Toronto or Houston, there are still great fine points out here. There is still great opportunity, and there is still terrific people. So that’s the only thing that really matters to me is being in an environment that I see people as my family. I see people as my friends and I just have fun, and that’s basically what I see out here in Oklahoma.”

After a whirlwind offseason in which the Thunder added three veteran players and drafted a rookie, the Oklahoma City brass was ready to unveil its new team.

During their first meeting with the Oklahoma media, both Patterson and Felton came across as players who are happy to be part of the Oklahoma City organization. While Patterson talked about the environment, Felton delved into why the Thunder is a good fit for him at this point in his career after leaving the L.A. Clippers

Being a 12-year guy, you just want to put yourself in a situation where you’re going to win. Put yourself in a situation where you’ve got a chance to try to play for something special, and that’s the to win a ring,” Felton said. “That’s always been a goal of mine, always been a dream of mine. So this organization has been one of the top for the last, you know, ten years since I can remember. Got a great team. I like some of the things that they were doing this summer, some of the pieces that they were signing, some of the guys that they traded for. So to come here, just, I think we have a great chance to do something special.”

Last season with the Raptors, Patterson averaged almost 7 points and 5 rebounds a game. But the 2010 first round pick out of Kentucky says his game is much more than that.

Just pretty much spacing the floor. Being a guy who can move the ball, distribute, pass, make the extra play, then when I have the opportunity to shoot, take advantage of that,” Patterson said. “Russ (Westbrook) demands so much attention, same thing with PG (Paul George). Two great guys on the offensive side of the ball. So just trying to do whatever I can to ease the pressure off them. Moving the ball when they do get trapped, just trying to distribute and find someone.

Also on the defensive side, this is such a great defensive team, and it’s only going to get better,” Patterson continued. “So just using my ability, my awareness, and my IQ to help out in those areas too.”

Patterson and Felton were just two of the big three additions the Thunder made this offseason. George, who was picked up in a trade with Indiana, flew into Oklahoma City Tuesday night to hundreds of fans waiting for him at the airport. The press conference to introduce him wasn’t until Wednesday night.

However, both Patterson and Felton are excited to get on the floor with George.

From what I’ve seen, he’s one of the hardest workers in the league,” Patterson said. “And one thing that I admire the most about him is his vocal leadership. I know and we all see what he can do on the court as far as his game goes.”

For Felton, getting to chance to play alongside Westbrook instead of facing him is what he is a positive.

That’s one battle that you don’t look forward to coming in here, playing against him,” Felton said. “The he’s one tough guy. One tough competitor. He brings it every night. He’s going to give it his all. So I look forward to playing with a guy like that because I play the same way. So it feels a big relief to be on the right side of that.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Thunder Girls ready for new season

By Michael Kinney

Jaimie George has been through it all in her three years as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder dance team.

So when George, a native of Yukon, joined 31 other ladies Thursday night at the Riverwind Casino for the final auditions for the 2017-18 Thunder Girls, she was in her element.

After more than two hours of auditions, George heard her named called for the fourth time to be a Thunder Girl.

“I’m just overwhelmed with what Thunder Girls gives to me, my experiences” George said. “And each year is completely different so to know that I can come back for a fourth year and see what it holds and what surprises are in store is just, exhilarating to me.”

George was one of 20 ladies who made the team this year. That includes six first timers that veteran Kayle Marshall said she will take under her wing and introduce them to this new world they are about to encounter.

“I think I can pass on just my past experience. I know what it’s like to be a rookie and how at times it can be challenging and it’s a lot to take in,” Marshall said. “And it basically takes a year to get everything down but its just breathing and taking everything in cause, not many people are able to get this experience so just live through the moment.”

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As in the past, the final audition was comprised of three rounds that included a question and answer segment, a choreographed jazz dance routine and an individual free dance where each competitor showed off their best moves.

The panel of judges included Miss Oklahoma Triana Browne, National Guard Lt. Col. Craig Robinson, Joey Combs from 98.9 Kiss FM and Mike Ipong from Wild 104.9. They joined Paige Carter, dance team manager and choreographer, in making the final decisions.

Finalists took part in business interviews, fitness training and rehearsals to prepare for the finals.
“Tryouts are a very stressful week, honestly,” George said. “And people ask me like oh it’s your fourth year you’re probably not even nervous but, I mean you still have to get on stage and you have to do your best and I honestly think its harder because, coming back as a veteran, you have a standard to uphold so I just have to know that I have to beat myself from the year before so.”

Mustang’s McKenzie Downey made the team for the second straight season. She said her rookie season was a growing experience.

I think I’ve definitely grown more confident in myself,” Downey said. “Just having all these wonderful people, surrounding yourself with people who challenge you, you grow. So I think that’s how I’ve changed the most.”

For George, each season she has been part of the Thunder Girls has allowed her to learn some valuable lessons.

Over my first three years I’ve learned hardships gonna happen, you’re gonna get tired, you’re gonna get stressed out,” George said, “but you just have to lean on your teammates because we’re all in this together. You definitely can’t be an individual on the team.”

The NBA regular season doesn’t begin until late October. But the Thunder Girls will busy doing activities in the community and making appearances.

“I am extremely excited for the upcoming season with this outstanding group of talented women,” Carter. “These ladies work so hard all season long, and I look forward to the energy they will add to the Thunder experience at Chesapeake Energy Arena and serving as great ambassadors in the community.”

However, Marshall can’t wait until that first home game of the season when everything gets amplified.

“Oh my gosh, I’m so excited. It’s my favorite night,” Marshall said. “I love being back out there. It’s nice having a summer break but you miss it so much you just miss being at the arena so I hope it flies by and October’s here fast.”

Jaimie 1.JPG

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

(Photos by Zach Beeker, OKC Thunder)

Thunder get Paul George; What’s next?

By Michael Kinney

Sam Presti seems to thrive when people count him out the most. Heading into this year’s free agency, it looked like the Oklahoma City General Manager had no cards to play and was just going to sit back and be a spectator.

But that is not the Presti Thunder fans have grown to revere. Almost two hours before free agency officially began, Presti made the biggest and most unsuspecting move of the offseason by trading for Indiana’s Paul George.

The Thunder gave of guard Victor Oladipo and forward Domas Sabonis in exchange for George, who has one year left on his contract. No draft picks were involved.

“We’ve had a clear idea as to what we’re looking for, so that when those things do present themselves,” Presti said in May, “we can strike and we can try to make the team better.”

In almost every respect, the Thunder are renting George, who many believe wants to be in Los Angeles with the Lakers. But the Thunder have him for at least one season teamed with Russell Westbrook.

With George and Westbrook teamed together, the Thunder are now a difference maker and have to be reckoned with. Westbrook led the league in scoring at 31.6 a game. George was 15th at 23.7 pg.

Neither Oladipo or Sabonis seemed to be everything the Thunder had hoped during their one season in Oklahoma City. So even if George leaves after the 2017-18 season, the Thunder have cleared their books of a couple of contracts that didn’t fit.

This also opens Presti to work more magic in free agency. The Rudy Gay to Oklahoma City becomes even more viable now.

But regardless of what happens, the Thunder are back to being  a relevant team. The next question is will it be enough to get Westbrook to sign a long term extension?

” I think in this cap environment, it’s going to be more a matter of, if you want to play in a max-type situation, you’re going to have to move several pieces around in order to do something like that, with no promises obviously of anything,” Presti said during exit interviews. And then the system is set up to make you have to make choices and figure that out. So you know, we’re not in a position where we’re going to be a cap space team, per se. But we’ll look at every opportunity that we can, but it’s not a matter of us necessarily extending offers to people. It’s basically people extending interest to us, you know what I’m saying, and then we can work from there.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com