hibition games are a scourge on sports. We will come to hate them. They tell us little; all they're good for is wearing out ballplayers who already face an 82-game schedule. And they wear out fans who have committed to 41 home games a year and then are asked to support extra games that hold less meaning than the pickup games at Municipal Gym. If someone wants any exhibition game scheduled for the Ford Center, I say take it. Sherman: Heck yes. The first game in the state should have been in the city that made the move possible and in front of the taxpayers who are footing the bill for the Ford Center as it stands and the changes that are coming. Seems to me it should have been easy to flop the order of the games (the Thunder plays Monday in Tulsa and Tuesday in OKC), but maybe we should ask the team if there was a reason why it couldn't be done. (Thanks for the story idea). Mayberry: Maybe so, but who cares? The key word is exhibition. OKC will have 41 nights of the real thing. This has been the biggest non-issue to date with this franchise. Carlson: As long as the team plays its first game in Oklahoma City, it doesn't matter much to me. And the thing is, this is technically Houston's home exhibition. The fact that the two teams are playing on Oklahoma soil is something of a surprise. Truthfully, Tulsa should have an exhibition game — this will be the state's team, after all — and this just happens to be the one where the team could swing a deal to get there. 4. If you had to buy a single game ticket to just one Thunder home game, which would it be? Sherman: The opener, without question. Here's my wish, and it's not unique to me: Wayman Tisdale performs the national anthem. What a great way to celebrate the birth of Oklahoma City's own franchise. I wasn't able to be at the Ford Center when the Hornets played their first game here in 2005, but I hear it was special. Wayman was part of that. Who cares who they're playing that night — for the record, it's the Bucks. But 20 years from now 50,000 people will swear they were there the night the Thunder played its first game. Carlson: The Hornets game. The Men in Teal return. Should be a fun atmosphere. Oh, and they just happen to have the most exciting player in the game in Chris Paul. In case you missed it, CP3 has only gotten better since he left OKC. Tramel: The Hornets' first appearance is the can't-miss game. Kobe and LeBron and the Celtics and all the marquee stars and teams, they'll be back. But there never again will be the first meeting of OKC's past and present teams. It'll be like Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand, meeting on the streets of New York all those years later, in "The Way We Were." Mayberry: Are you questioning my fanhood? Washington Wizards. 5. What does the return of Greg Oden mean to the Western Conference? Mayberry: For this season, very little. Sure, he'll anchor the middle for years on what is currently an up and coming team. But aside from pushing the Blazers into the playoffs, which means knocking the time bomb Nuggets out, his presence will not greatly alter the West's landscape. Even with him the Blazers figure to be two years away from contending for a title. Sherman: It means the Portland Trailblazers — to quote my friend Berry Tramel — have grown fangs. If Oden is healthy I see Portland getting a lot better. That's probably worse news to teams like the Dallas Mavericks than it is to the Thunder this season. But it means the West stays though. I think teams like Dallas are going to have to work hard to keep from declining and the rise of Portland are going to make that more of a challenge. Carlson: The Blazers will be better with him, but they aren't going to suddenly become world-beaters or anything. His return will make things harder on the Thunder which will be looking for every last win it can scratch out, but it will take a few more years before Oden and the Blazers start really wrecking havoc on the rest of the league. Tramel: What return? He's never played. But the appearance of Greg Oden means the average age of the Western Conference goes down, but everyone will think of the TrailBlazers as older, since Oden looks 54.