An hour before tipoff Saturday night, Charlotte center Byron Mullens couldn't take three steps inside Chesapeake Energy Arena without someone stopping him dead in his tracks.
Fans lined the tunnel wanting autographs, season ticket-holders and ushers shared smiles and Thunder team personnel demanded hugs.
It was quite a welcome back for a fourth-string center who played 26 total games in two seasons in OKC.
Inside the Charlotte locker room sat D.J. White, another former Thunder player.
The pleasantries soon ended as OKC cruised to a 122-95 victory over the woeful Bobcats, who have the league's worst record at 5-34.
White had 10 points (4 for 7 shooting), five rebounds and two steals in 22 minutes. Mullens had 12 points (6 for 8) and three rebounds in 19 minutes.
With the Thunder, White and Mullens rarely saw this many minutes on the court.
White missed 75 games his rookie season due to jaw surgery. He played 12 games the next season while battling a thumb injury and played 23 games the following season before being traded.
White was dealt to the Bobcats on Feb. 24, 2010, along with guard Morris Peterson in exchange for center Nazr Mohammed. Mullens was traded to the Bobcats for a second-round pick in 2013, six days before this season began.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti orchestrated both trades for the same reason. Though he liked White and Mullens, Presti didn't envision much playing time for either and traded them knowing they could prove themselves with more minutes.
"As much as I loved it here, I wanted to play," explained the 6-foot-9, 251-pound White, the 29th overall pick in the 2008 draft, who played for former Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson at Indiana. "I know it's a business. Nine times out of 10, I wasn't going to be here for forever anyway. I love the guys here, but I have to do what's best for me."