TULSA — Choosing to support superfan and honorary assistant coach Lorelei Decker, Thunder coach Scott Brooks did not attend his team's Blue and White scrimmage on Thursday night at the SpiritBank Event Center in Tulsa.
Brooks instead accompanied Decker and her parents to Phoenix, where their unique bond was recognized with a national award.
Make-A-Wish America selected the Thunder as one of its Chris Greicius Celebrity Award recipients for being “generous supporters of Make-A-Wish Oklahoma, providing tickets for wish families to attend games, recognizing generous supporters and donating auction items for local events. They recently granted a wish for 17-year-old Lorelei, during which she was made honorary team captain and spent time with head coach Scott Brooks and players.”
“She's a friend,” Brooks said before departure Thursday via a private plane alongside Decker, her mother (Andrea) and father (Kevin) and various officials with Make-A-Wish and the Thunder. “I'm not doing this for myself or the Thunder. I'm doing it for her. It's going to be a great trip. I thought it was important to go. She's given us more than we'll be giving her.”
Decker, 17, was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma last January and has undergone chemotherapy to shrink an 11-centimeter tumor found in her chest. Thursday's trip came roughly 12 hours before Decker was to begin a bone marrow/stem cell procedure on Friday.
"There's no question she is an inspiration to all of us," Brooks said. "Her determination, her courage, her spirit has captivated all of us. This was an opportunity to be with Lorelei and give her the support and encouragement to stay strong and continue to fight the way she has."
The travel party was scheduled to return to Oklahoma City around 3 a.m. Friday. Brooks planned to drive to Tulsa for a 10 a.m. shootaround practice in preparation for the Thunder's preseason game Friday against the Phoenix Suns at 7 p.m. at the BOK Center, where a record crowd of 18,233 is expected.
Decker said she was stunned Brooks skipped Thursday's scrimmage to attend the ceremony.
“I think that's crazy,” Decker said. “Oh, my gosh. I'm so excited it got to work out so I could go. I'm doing pretty well. It's kind of day-by day. It gets tougher as you go through treatments. This chemo is no joke that I've been doing and it's only preparation for what I'm going to go through this next week. I'm a tough girl, but it's pretty hard.”