The Thunder held its annual blue/white scrimmage at Westmoore High School on Sunday, using the event to once again help lift the spirits of those affected by last May's devastating tornado.
But the organization offered more than just its presence to the Moore citizens, announcing intentions to rebuild the outdoor basketball courts at the sites of three schools destroyed in the tragedy.
“We really strive to be a team of the people,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti told the packed crowd minutes before the scrimmage. “That's why we exist, because of the support that we get. And it runs both ways.”
Briarwood Elementary, Plaza Towers Elementary and Highland East Junior High Schools are the three schools, all of which were directly hit by the storm, to be aided by this initiative.
The Thunder Cares Foundation will fund the rebuilding of these courts, which will be complete with Thunder branding.
“When the community lost these schools, they lost more than a place of learning for their children,” Dan Mahoney, vice president of corporate communications and community relations for the Thunder, said in a press release. "The school facilities, including the basketball courts, served as the heart of these neighborhoods, and we are pleased and proud to be a part of restoring these communities.”
From Kyle Harrison, a Moore native: “The Thunder does a great job with that and did before the tornado. So this isn't really anything out of the ordinary in my eyes for the organization.”
PLAYERS WOW CROWD IN SCRIMMAGE
As the Thunder players strolled onto the Westmoore floor for warm-ups, the gym electrified into a sudden pep rally/rock concert vibe.
The energized students, packed into the stands, let out shrieks of admiration for nearly every player. But no one got a louder ovation than Russell Westbrook, who slowly strolled onto the court with a band-aid on his right knee, proceeding to shake hands with a number of fans.
“Great feeling to be back here, to make them smile, to joke with them,” said forward Serge Ibaka, who also took pictures and signed autographs for the crowd.
The Thunder also put on a respectable show during the scrimmage.
In a spirited and energized game, won by the white team (which featured all the starters), there were plenty of highlight plays.
Ibaka had a powerful poster dunk on rookie Andre Roberson, Kevin Durant rained in a trio of long-range 3-pointers and Thabo Sefolosha sent Derek Fisher stumbling to the floor with a nifty crossover move, drawing oohs and ahs from the crowd.
DURANT'S NEWEST OFFENSIVE MOVE
Early in the first quarter of the scrimmage, Kevin Durant took rookie Andre Roberson into the post, cleared out the rest of his teammates and finally unveiled his newest offensive weapon to the public.
On an island with Roberson, Durant smoothly swept across the lane, before releasing a mini-sky hook on the run, splashing it right through.
It was reminiscent of Magic Johnson's legendary game-winning hook in Game 4 of the 1987 Finals and something Durant had been reportedly working on all summer.
“It's taking me a while to master it,” Durant said in an offseason interview. “If I shoot 20 of them, I would make 4 of 5. But I've been working on it this summer. I'm trying to add that to my game.”