By Mike Baldwin, mbaldwin@opubco.com Modified: October 12, 2008 at 10:20 pm •  Published: October 12, 2008
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Thunder chairman Clay Bennett said from the outset Oklahoma City's NBA franchise would be a statewide team.

Bennett now has tangible proof. Season ticket accounts include fans from all 77 counties.

Tonight, the Thunder rolls into the BOK Center in Tulsa. The team already has played three preseason games. But tonight's 7:30 tipoff has special significance since it's the first game on Oklahoma soil.

"There is a connection, not just from a civic perspective but from a statewide perspective, a connection to the game, a connection to the NBA, a connection to these players, the global experience that we're all about to be a part of," Bennett said. "It's resonating and Tulsa embodies that the first time we play (in Oklahoma)."

NBA fans realize star players often play limited minutes in preseason games. Sometimes they're given the entire game off. Coach P.J. Carlesimo has said he would try to play stars like Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Desmond Mason, although Green suffered a sprained ankle Saturday night.

The Thunder will play its first and only preseason home game Tuesday night in Oklahoma City. But there will be 41 regular season games at the Ford Center. For Tulsans, tonight's game is an opportunity to see the new NBA team without driving down the Turner Turnpike.

"I have been waiting for this for what seems like forever," said Shane May, 27, of Tulsa. "I am so excited Oklahoma finally has a pro sports team to call their own. I am extremely excited about this preseason game and plan to attend a couple of regular season games at the Ford Center."


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