Though he was born, raised and excelled in basketball while growing up in Oklahoma City, Daniel Orton had never played a game inside Chesapeake Energy Arena until Tuesday night's preseason game against the Charlotte Bobcats.
Orton never touched the hometown court in high school or during his two seasons with the Orlando Magic before signing as a free agent with the Thunder on Aug. 4.
The former Bishop McGuinness High School standout had an impressive debut, scoring 13 points and shooting 5 for 6 from the field in the Thunder's methodical 120-98 victory before a sellout crowd of 18,203. He also had three rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot.
Orton admitted he often battles nerves, and Tuesday was no different.
“I'm nervous every game, until I get in,” Orton said. “Then I don't know where they go, but they're gone.”
Orton scored eight points in the second quarter alone, playing 10 of his 19 total minutes.
“It just felt good to be out there finally,” Orton said. “It's the first I've really played since the end of last season (with the Magic). I made a couple of great plays, but it was mainly up to my teammates. I was just in the right position. They made the plays and got me the ball.
“I wasn't really thinking about (how well I was doing). I was just worried about playing more so than anything, just doing everything I'm supposed to do.”
Orton acknowledged there is plenty of room for improvement.
“Oh, I have a lot of things to work on,” Orton said. “One thing I learned in Orlando was defensive coverages, and I have to work on that, positioning and stuff like that. For the most part, just know where to be.”
Only one spot is available on the Thunder's 15-man roster. Orton is competing for that spot against guard DeAndre Liggins (five points, six rebounds Tuesday), guard Andy Rautins (team-high 20 points, two steals, two rebounds, one assist), forward Hollis Thompson (two points, two rebounds in five minutes) and guard Walker Russell (five points, one assist).
Tuesday was OKC's third preseason game, but Orton's first appearance.
Asked if he learned anything Tuesday that he didn't know before, Thunder coach Scott Brooks said: “It was good to see Daniel in there. He's played well in practice. That's the thing with that last spot. We have guys who are really good players who could be on NBA rosters, but you can't keep 19 guys. I thought he (Orton) has done a good job in practice and it was good to see him get out there and play, and play well.
“Daniel is having a good camp. He has a great feel for the game. He moves the ball well. He seems to be in the right spot. He's a physical defender. I thought he played well tonight. He was able to get around the basket and finish. Nick (Collison) and him made some really good plays to each other.”
Should Orton make the Thunder's final roster, he routinely will be saddled with ticket requests from hometown family and friends.
For Tuesday's game, Orton kept it simple.
“I only gave out two (tickets), both to my grandparents,” Orton explained. “I didn't want to make tickets a priority tonight and let that be a distraction. I told everybody, ‘Just two for my grandparents.' I think everybody was pretty cool with that and they understood.”