TULSA — The hometown kid stepped to the free-throw line with 11.4 seconds left and a chance to ice the game. Swish two freebies, and the accomplished author would walk out of the BOK Center as the star of a fairytale that not even he was imaginative to pen.
But Etan Thomas would indeed have his storybook ending. The former Booker T. Washington High star sank a pair of free throws that secured a 96-91 preseason win over Miami on Wednesday night.
It was the perfect finish to a special night for Thomas, who as a youngster worked at American Parking, just blocks from where the arena had yet to be built.
"I’m just glad I made them,” said Thomas, who hadn’t played a game in Tulsa since high school and needed more than 100 tickets for the exhibition. "I’m glad we got the win. I would have been feeling bad if I would have missed them.”
Thomas might have a reason to feel even better.
No one would go into details following the game, but Thomas could be closer to competing for the starting center job than anyone thinks. Returning starter Nenad Krstic has been penciled in by many to regain his place in the first unit. But it’s important to keep in mind that Krstic is more offensive-minded, and fellow starters Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Jeff Green provide plenty of firepower.
With the more defensive-oriented Thomas, Thunder coach Scott Brooks might balance out his starting lineup with more toughness and interior defense. Inserting Thomas into the starting unit, even if he didn’t play more than 20 minutes, could also make the Thunder’s bench more dangerous with Krstic, Nick Collison, Shaun Livingston and rookie James Harden forming a formidable foursome.