“It's a special day, going to a new year, turning a new leaf over, I guess,” Durant said. “But for us, it's just another game on our schedule that we've go to try to win.”
A combination of good scheduling and good fortune are why OKC has been able to play at home every New Year's Eve since the franchise's inception.
NBA teams are allowed to request three “priority” dates during the season, but there are no guarantees for games played within the “holiday season” of Dec. 23 through Jan. 2.
The process begins with SMG, which manages both Chesapeake Energy Arena and the adjacent Cox Convention Center, leaving Dec. 31 open for potential Thunder and AHL Oklahoma City Barons games to coincide with downtown's annual “Opening Night” celebration.
“We take it one year at a time because the league sets the schedule and we can only request a New Year's Eve game,” said Dan Mahoney, the Thunder's vice president of communications/community relations. “We always request it because it's such an important part of what the community does with New Year's Eve.”
Needless to say, the Thunder is in favor of playing every New Year's Eve in OKC.
“We can never say this will be a long-standing tradition,” Mahoney said. “We like what has occurred because it's such a great connection to ‘Opening Night.' So far so good, but it's never a guarantee.”