The Oklahoma City Thunder's tradition of playing an exhibition game in Tulsa continues Thursday night with the team hosting the newly named New Orleans Pelicans inside the BOK Center.
OKC is 4-0 in its annual Tulsa preseason affair. The Thunder did not host a preseason game before the start of the 2011-12 season due to the NBA lockout limiting all teams to two preseason contests.
Crowds have gotten consistently larger each time the Thunder travels to Tulsa. An announced crowd of 10,0007 was on hand in 2008, 10,427 made it in 2009, 16,541 were on hand in 2010 and a sold-out crowd of 18,233 watched the Thunder in 2012.
“It's always been great. Every game we've had there it's been a great atmosphere,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “It's great for us and great for the fans. It's an opportunity for us to continue to show the state our team. We have an amazing following of Thunder fans throughout the state and we take pride in it. We want our fans to be proud of what we do on and off the floor, and that's not going to change. I think Tulsa has been great. Every exhibition game we've had there has been a lot of excitement in the building and we kind of look forward to playing there.”
BROOKS IMPRESSED WITH THABEET
Hasheem Thabeet got the start in place of Kendrick Perkins (dislocated finger) on Tuesday against Denver and impressed.
He finished with four points, four rebounds (three offensive) and one blocked shot in 20 minutes.
“I thought he was very active,” Brooks said. “He did a great job of helping on our coverages on the pick and roll … He was using his length. That's one of the things we want to have him focus on is using his length. He's 7-4 and we want to be able to see it every night.”
HOME, SWEET HOME
The Thunder practiced inside Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday, something the team tries to do at least once a year. Generally, the team practices at its training facility in north Oklahoma City.
“This is us. This is our building,” Brooks said. “This is a place that we are very comfortable. We don't want teams to come in here and feel comfortable, and we take pride in playing in front of our crowd.”
After a 109-81 win over the Nuggets on Tuesday, guard Derek Fisher said he was most pleased with the team's youngest players giving the right effort.
“I think at this point in the season it's not necessarily about playing a perfect game or guys not making mistakes,” Fisher said. “But I think you can see the intentions and the willingness to play the game the right way. It's all through the team, from top to bottom, and that's what we need to continue to build on.”
Perhaps one of the overlooked aspects of the Thunder's performance against Denver was the rebounding game.
Oklahoma City out-rebounded Denver 55-33, including a 21-10 advantage on the offensive end. Rookies Steven Adams and Andre Roberson each had five offensive rebounds. Serge Ibaka pulled down four offensive boards. Four other players had at least one offensive rebound.
“That's not something that we've been very good on, one, because we shoot a pretty high percentage. Hopefully that continues,” Brooks said. “But we've never been a high offensive rebounding team. It's something that we definitely want to be able to put more into our offensive package, pounding the offensive glass.”
BY DARNELL MAYBERRY